Texas State Sen. Rodney Ellis has called for a moratorium on the executions of inmates from Houston’s Harris County, echoing Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt’s reservations death row cases that may contain evidence handled by his department’s troubled crime lab, the Houston Chronicle reports. “I think we now have clearly reached a point where we have to stop carrying out executions until this mess in our crime lab is cleaned up,” said Ellis.
The comments from Ellis and Hurtt came one day after lawyers for a Houston man scheduled to die by injection next week asked a judge to delay his execution, and possibly all others, until the Houston Police Department has assessed evidence from about 8,000 criminal case files packed into 280 boxes found in the department’s property room in August. They also came as District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said that a man in prison for a 1987 rape was convicted on faulty evidence – the second such reversal since the crime lab problems first came to light. “I think it would be very prudent for us as a system, a criminal justice system, to delay further executions until we’ve had an opportunity to re-examine evidence that played a particular role in the conviction of an individual that was sentenced to death,” Hurtt said. Two Harris County men on death row are scheduled to be executed next week. Nine Harris County inmates are set for execution through March, including seven whose cases were investigated by the Houston Police Department.