A two-year audit of the Houston Police Department’s crime lab came to a close last week, with the final report including troubling revelations about lab work that led to hundreds of criminal convictions. A column in the Houston Chronicle details two major causes of forensic mistakes and misconduct: underfunding and a close relationship with law enforcement. When labs are part of a police department, Ellen Marrus writes, they view themselves as a tool of the prosecution and not an independent scientific body.
As the screws are tightened on the HPD crime lab, law enforcement officials will look for ways to ensure the problems will not be repeated in the future. Our system of justice depends on clear and concise presentations of credible evidence, and we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that our crime labs can provide it.
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. (Houston Chronicle, 06/16/07)