Friday, October 28, 2011

Grand jury investigating BAT van coverup to question DA Pat Lykos

It seems that as a practical matter, examinations of flawed forensics in the justice system virtually never result from the mature, public exercise of judgment aimed at seeking scientific truth but inevitably are cinched up in some taut, emotional knot by whatever painful, uncomfortable or inconvenient memories or secrets may be exposed if the flaw were to come to light in a particular case. So when investigating flawed arson science, for example, the Forensic Science Commission gets sidetracked by death penalty politics. Similarly, flawed breathalyzer forensics at the Houston PD were only exposed when a crime lab supervisor quit rather than sign off on questionable results, then faced alleged retaliation from the District Attorney and the Harris County Commissioners Court, which eliminated her new job soon after she took it. So the question of breathalyzer mechanics gets wrapped up in a nasty employment dispute. For whatever reason, when flawed forensics are exposed the case is seldom as simple as the science.

In the Harris County B.A.T. van case, the Houston Chronicle today reports that DA Pat Lykos herself has been called to testify before a grand jury that's apparently investigating Brady violations (withholding exculpatory evidence) in addition to retaliatory termination regarding whistleblower Amanda Culbertson who exposed flawed forensics on mobile DWI testing units. Wrote Brian Rogers:
The testimony could affect dozens of past and future DWI cases that relied on evidence handled by the testing equipment in the vans.
Even more serious is the possibility that Lykos and other prosecutors had doubts about the tests' accuracy while prosecuting past DWI cases but did not alert defense attorneys.
Culbertson resigned rather than sign off on flawed breath-test analyses and went public with her allegations, taking a job at Lone Star College which held a decades-old training contract for breath alcohol testing with Harris County. If not in response to Culbertson's disclosures then at least soon after them, DA Lykos successfully pressed the Commissioners Court to transfer the contract to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Lisa Falkenberg writes that, "Retaliation, and perhaps even intimidation, seem far more likely motives for the DA's office to want to end Lone Star's contract," but added that "we'd never know for sure without a thorough investigation."

It seems, at least, the grand jury is performing one. What a dramatic turn of events! I'd love to learn the backstory of how it was orchestrated. We could use grand jurors like that in quite a few other Texas counties. The Houston Chronicle has been covering this well, so far, but if you're interested in the straight-up schadenfreude angle on this juicy story, Murray Newman's your man.

See related Grits posts:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link grits. Talk about schadenfreude. I never saw so many people gloat. :)


Anonymous said...

"flawed forensics"
Those two words seem to go together. When is forensics ever not flawed?

Anonymous said...

Pat Lykos and her minions also allow perjury to convict the innocent.
Check out Youtube: Who Ordered the Plane?