The district attorney for Harris County, Texas, wants to destroy 13,000 vials of blood used as DWI evidence, a move defense lawyers fear would hinder potential appeals and exonerations by making future testing impossible, reports the Houston Chronicle. In a letter to the Texas attorney general earlier this month, Pat Lykos asked for an opinion on what to do with blood evidence used in closed misdemeanor DWI cases so law enforcement agencies can make room for new evidence. The blood vials “sit unused and unwanted in secure refrigeration units, taking up valuable space and requiring administrative oversight in perpetuity,” Lykos said in a statement. “This is a problem that is not going away.”
The idea was met with hostility by defense lawyers, who cited recent exonerations and revelations about incorrect tests and negligent technicians at area labs to argue that destroying evidence could hurt both sides in the future. Police across Houston began routinely drawing blood in driving while intoxicated arrests in 2008. Before that, police would only seek warrants for forced blood draws in a few cases, like felony arrests or wrecks with serious injuries. Agencies across the county must now oversee locked refrigerators holding thousands of samples. Houston police alone have more than 4,700 stored vials.