More than 4,200 criminal cases involving 15,000 pieces of evidence are being reviewed after a sprinkler malfunctioned in the Houston Police Department’s property room, the Houston Chronicle reports. Tyler Flood, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said defense lawyers in the organization have been given unofficial estimates by prosecutors overseeing some of the cases that may be affected. “It could really affect a lot of cases,” Flood said. “It’s an administrative nightmare for the DA’s office.” The cases join more than 1,000 others under review at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office caused by evidence problems, including the apparent improper destruction of 21,000 pieces of evidence by a constable’s office.
The facility holds 500,000 pieces of evidence in secured rooms and walk-in freezers. One sprinkler head went off Tuesday in a freezer. The freezer holds about 15,000 articles of evidence, like blood samples and clothes or weapons with DNA, on rows of shelves in the room. Most of the evidence was kept in sealed plastic bags that had been stored in cardboard boxes. “The sprinkler system damaged only a portion of the first row,” acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo said yesterday. “It’s not going to be 15,000” cases.