Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is “definitely disappointed” about the troubles at the department’s criminal laboratory and cannot rule out the possibility that the problems could extend to other cases, reports the Houston Chronicle. Hurtt plans a news conference today to respond to new allegations that faulty testimony from lab analysts led to the wrongful conviction of a Houston man on rape and kidnapping charges 17 years ago. Attorneys for George Rodriguez, who in 1987 was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the abduction and sexual assault of a 14 year old, are seeking an independent forensic audit of thousands of cases investigated by the lab.
Frank Michel, spokesman for Mayor Bill White, says White wants “to make sure that there are not innocent people locked up. And our number one concern is that the jurors in our community have confidence in our evidence so that criminals don’t get off.” The appeal of Rodriguez’s conviction challenges the testimony of two lab analysts. An affidavit from six forensic experts asserts that the analysis in the case was “scientifically unsound.” The experts said that “a serious danger exists that they may have offered similarly false and scientifically unsound testimony” in other cases and that an investigation of thousands of other cases conducted over the past 25 years was warranted. “This is a gross miscarriage of justice,” said Houston attorney Mark Wawro, who is working with the Innocence Project of New York on the Rodriguez case.