During the last two weeks, groups of inmates convicted of crimes in Harris County, Texas, gathered at various state prisons for a conference call with officials in Houston. The court representatives were asking the inmates if they would like to have their cases reexamined due to possible forensic errors at the troubled Houston Police Department crime lab. Most inmates said “yes.”
In July, an independent auditor completed a review of hundreds of cases handled by the crime lab. The audit’s report identified 180 cases with “major issues” in forensic analysis. Of that group, 160 inmates have been offered legal representation and a case review thus far. Ten additional inmates are out of prison and will be contacted. The remaining 10 were executed. This review stems from the problems first identified in Houston’s crime lab in 2002. The Innocence Project has recently called for community support to review hundreds of additional Houston cases (beyond the initial 180) where serology in the crime lab was incomplete. Last month, Innocence Project client Ronnie Taylor was released from prison after DNA testing showed that he did not a commit for which he was convicted. Taylor’s conviction was caused, in part, by incomplete serology work at the crime lab. Two people – George Rodriguez and Josiah Sutton – have been exonerated by DNA testing after they were wrongfully convicted based partly on faulty testing in the Houston lab.
The cases being reviewed, some which date back to the 1980s, include several death row inmates and others convicted of violent crimes such as robbery and rape.
While some of the inmates simply said "yes" before shuffling back to their cells, for others it was more emotional.
"Some of them wanted to start talking about their case right away," said Bob Wicoff, a Houston defense lawyer assigned to lead the review. "One of them told me, 'I've been waiting for this day. I love you.'
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. (Houston Chronicle, 11/02/07)
VIDEO: A Houston news report today raises questions about current, ongoing problems at the Houston Police Department crime lab, based on allegations by a former lab analyst that officials at the crime lab ignored proficiency standards.
. (KHOU, 11/02/07)