It's good news for death row inmate Charles Raby - and more bad news for Joseph Chu.In other words, Chu lied about the lab results.
The former Houston crime lab analyst has taken a beating in the Michael Bromwich reports, which determined that, among other things, the lab had manipulated results to help with convictions. And it seems that in the case of Raby, who was convicted in 1994 of brutally murdering a grandmother, Chu did exactly that.
Back in April, Raby's DNA challenge, which has been going on more than six years, was postponed yet again pending an outside expert's look into Chu's blood-typing work in the original trial. Chu had found two separate blood types under the victim's fingernails, and they belonged to neither Raby nor the victim. Yet Chu simply listed the results as inconclusive.
The report came in last week. In her conclusion, Patricia P. Hamby, the outside expert, states that Chu's "inconclusive" reporting "is contrary to and not supported by the recorded laboratory test results for the left and right fingernail samples."
Reporting that evidence excluding a defendant was "inconclusive" is the kind of thing that happens when a "team spirit" mentality overtakes forensic workers and they come to consider themselves more as cops than scientists. Even if Raby is truly guilty (and I have no specific knowledge of the case), that doesn't excuse authorities employing what amounts to perjurious testimony (the false lab report) to convict him.
The US Supreme Court will soon decide a case that will determine whether lab reports are "testimonial" documents. But since they took that case, history has virtually mooted the point, especially after the publication earlier this year by the National Academy of Sciences showing that quite a few common forensic practices are based on pseudoscience and folklore that's unsupported by experimental science.
The Houston crime lab debacle puts the lie to the notion that lab workers' conclusions don't require cross-examination. Chu's reported results in this case were not objective scientific analyses but skewed misrepresentations designed to help secure a conviction. It's hard to see how any fair-minded jurist would find that justice is fairly served by assuming such conclusions are true without subjecting them to the adversarial process.
RELATED: From the blog Plain Error, see the story of another man who was the victim of overt misconduct at the Houston crime lab.