The Houston crime lab is poised to resume DNA testing, more than three years after the exposure of shoddy DNA work touched off a forensics scandal that cast doubt on evidence in thousands of criminal cases, the Houston Chronicle reports. “Some of you have been waiting (for years) for this information,” said Police Chief Harold Hurtt. A national forensic association this week awarded accreditation to the Police Department crime lab’s DNA division, clearing the way for analysts to perform DNA tests for the first time since that division was closed in December 2002. Accreditation certifies that labs meet minimum standards.
An independent investigation of the crime lab is ongoing and dozens of cases in which analysts’ work was flawed await adjudication. Police officials shut down the DNA division after an audit revealed the use of unqualified personnel, lax protocols, and facilities that included a roof that leaked rainwater onto evidence. Experts caution against viewing accreditation as a guarantee of the quality of a lab’s work. “It’s a start and a step up from where they used to be,” said Elizabeth Johnson, a California-based, independent DNA analyst. “But almost every lab whose work I look at is accredited and I still see mistakes – from minor to serious – coming out of those labs.” William Thompson, a professor at the University of California-Irvine who reviewed dozens of cases from Houston’s crime lab, said, “This is not the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”