Evidence from a capital murder case and seven others tested for DNA by the Houston Police Department’s crime lab have been destroyed. The Houston Chronicle says District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal may have to ask for pardons if any defendants were convicted largely on the weight of DNA evidence.
The eight cases are among 21 feared missing by prosecutors and police who are attempting to retest nearly 400 cases originally analyzed by the police crime lab’s DNA division, which was closed last year amid concerns about the accuracy of its work.
“We are going to have to alert the judges and the defense attorneys and evaluate each case to see what we have got to support the convictions without the DNA,” Rosenthal said. “If the DNA played a large role, I may be writing the governor about more pardons.”
Rosenthal has supported a pardon for Josiah Sutton, who was released from prison in March after tests found the Houston department incorrectly analyzed the DNA evidence used to convict him. The pardon request is pending before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The evidence in the capital murder case, in which the defendant received a life sentence, was destroyed because of a clerical error, Rosenthal said. A detective had marked some evidence for destruction and a clerk destroyed the wrong piece, which turned out to be one of the items HPD tested for DNA in the case.