innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dallas Crime Lab Scandal

This article by Bruce Nichols was orignally published in the Dallas Morning News :
A series of investigations of the Houston police crime lab has uncovered dozens of faulty tests, but the findings have freed just two wrongly convicted men in three years.

Some say the legal system – including defense lawyers – has been slow to respond, and legislators and inmate advocates are looking for ways to make sure innocent people have not been sent to prison or, worse, the death chamber.

"There needs to be some mechanism to giving those individuals the proper legal representation they deserve," said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, board chairman for the New York-based Innocence Project and a member of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Prosecutors say few convictions have been overturned because most of the errors were not major factors in convictions.

But critics aren't so sure. Preliminary findings last month showed 40 percent of DNA cases examined and 22.5 percent of blood-test cases scrutinized between 1987 and 2002 had major errors.

And the inquiry keeps growing. Michael Bromwich, an independent investigator hired by the city in 2005, is extending his inquiry seven years further back, to 1980, casting doubt on hundreds more cases.

The examination is unfolding even as other cases around the state and the country have been overturned for similar problems.

Triggered by a 2002 KHOU-TV investigation that uncovered flaws in Houston Police Department DNA testing, the investigation has gone through several stages – prosecutors and police combed through more than 400 DNA cases; two grand juries studied and criticized the police lab; and Mr. Bromwich sampled 2,700 cases of various types for examination.

The findings have been shocking.

According to Mr. Bromwich's reports, poorly trained lab workers faked or misinterpreted tests, withheld exculpatory findings and gave false testimony in court.

For the whole story, click here.

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