A new report on the Houston Police Department Crime Lab reveals testing errors and lost evidence at the long-troubled lab in the months leading up to the DNA lab’s closure in January. This new controversy comes after the Houston lab had apparently recovered from years of scandal. The lab’s DNA section was first closed in 2002, when evidence of misconduct and negligence was first revealed. A two-year independent audit of the lab found hundreds of cases with testing problems, raising questions for defendants who were convicted based on test results from the lab. Three wrongful convictions based on faulty test results have been overturned by DNA testing in recent years, and several more cases are currently in testing.
The DNA lab was closed in January after an investigation revealed that the DNA director had helped employees cheat on routine proficiency tests. The report released today uncovers additional allegations of misconduct.
Contaminated samples and questionable procedures were among problems Vanessa Nelson relayed in September to investigators probing allegations of policy violations by the DNA division leader, which led to her resignation last month.
Nelson's comments were part of a 73-page investigative police report obtained by the Houston Chronicle for a story in its Friday editions. The internal probe was the latest problem for the crime lab, where issues over accuracy and shoddy work has cast doubt on thousands of cases.
"Analyst morale is at an all-time low, and I question whether or not the section should suspend testing until the entire issue is resolved," Nelson told investigators Sept. 8.
Read the full story here
. (Houston Chronicle, 02/22/2008)
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