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:
- Current, former prosecutors in Williamson, Harris Counties forced to testify about alleged misconduct
- 'We've had enough of courthouse cronyism'
- Holy junk science BAT van! Houston portable breathalyzers' accuracy questioned
- Paycheck vs. Integrity: Houston PD lab supervisor resigns over faulty breathalyzers, feared retaliation