The Houston Police Department again closed its DNA testing section last week after the lab’s chief resigned due to problems with the accreditation of lab analysts. Vanessa G. Nelson, the former chief of the Houston Police DNA lab, submitted her resignation earlier this month after it was revealed that she had improperly coached analysts on open-book proficiency tests. This is the second time in recent memory the lab has closed due to scandal. The Houston Police Department was closed from 2002 to 2006 after major flaws in testing procedures were revealed. An independent audit completed last year found that hundreds of convictions had been based on testing that was incomplete or may have been flawed.
And a Houston Chronicle article this week revealed that Nelson, the departed lab chief, had been hired subsequently by the state to oversee DNA testing in a Texas Department of Public Safety lab.
State Rep. Kevin Bailey, who sat on a committee that investigated problems in the DPS labs in 2003, said he was troubled that the agency would hire Nelson before the HPD cheating investigation was complete.
"It is shocking, to say the least, that they would hire someone who was giving out test answers," the Houston Democrat said. "The integrity of these DNA labs is so critical. Their work has life-and-death consequences."
Read the full story here
. (Houston Chronicle, 01/29/08)
DNA testing has overturned three wrongful convictions caused, at least in part, by faulty testing at the Houston Police Department Crime Lab. Innocence Project client Ronnie Taylor was released late last year after DNA tests proved that he didn’t commit the rape for which he had served 12 years in prison. His conviction was based partly on faulty tests conducted at the Houston lab.