House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) will hold an informal hearing tomorrow in Houston on “the many missteps and shortcomings of the local criminal justice system,” reports the Houston Chronicle. Topics to be examined include inmate deaths at county jails, alleged mismanagement of DNA evidence and the case of a man who shot and killed two men suspected of burglarizing his neighbor. The hearing will “give us a basis for looking at this issue in Washington,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who will conduct the hearing with Conyers. Conyers will attend a similar hearing in Dallas on Saturday and plans to attend others statewide.
Jackson Lee said she would use the hearing to highlight her efforts to win congressional approval for legislation to require the U.S. attorney general to evaluate “the integrity and security” of DNA collection and storage practices at crime laboratories across the country to make sure samples remained uncontaminated. The House adopted Jackson Lee’s provision on Monday, as it endorsed legislation to extend for five years a program that authorizes $151 million in annual federal grants to cut down on the backlog of DNA analysis. Jackson Lee said federal oversight was needed because Houston prosecutors had used what she called “faulty DNA evidence” to wrongfully convict suspects.