Thursday, May 11, 2006

Report on Houston Crime Lab Published

The full 108-page report from independent investigator Michael Bromwich is here, raising further questions about the fallibility of scientific analyses at the lab. A highlight:
Thus far, our investigation has identified a total of 43 DNA cases and 50 serology cases analyzed by the Crime Lab that we have determined to have major issues, which we have defined to mean problems that raise significant doubt as to the reliability of the work performed, the validity of the analytical results, or the correctness of the analysts’ conclusions. Many of the problems we have observed in the serology cases infected the Crime Lab’s DNA profiling operations.
As I've argued before, in modern forensic science it frequently seems like accuracy is optional. To make matters worse, politicians aren't looking at the real solutions, just more money for more of the same. The best fix for faulty state crime labs is to pay for indigent defendants to hire independent experts. It doesn't sound that radical: Using the adversarial system's checks and balances to protect defendants from being falsely convicted. But because it would be expensive, it's far outside the terms of debate as far as what the Governor and the Legislature are considering.

To me that's no excuse. If lawmakers choose to preside over a state where one in twenty Texans is in prison, on probation or on parole, they must pay what it takes to procedurally ensure fairness for each of them.

For more information, see previous reports and other information involving the investigation at this official website.


Anonymous said...

Worse, DNA is a silver bullet for the prosecution. The jury simply stops listening to the evidence, and appellate courts, even in so-called liberal cities like mine, NYC, simply will not overturn the verdict, even when the DNA evidence was demonstrably false.

A short piece I wrote about one of my cases on the subject:

Renees Take said...

Thanks! Hopefully I can put this to good use in Wisconsin!


Gritsforbreakfast said...

You know, Rae, mcf is right - there might be a winning message that plays off of the 'CSI effect' that could work in Wisconsin. If you can't trust DNA evidence, how can you have enough certainty to put someone to death?

Ironically, the only time I can think when a court ingored DNA evidence was in an innocence case where Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller wrote for the majority that exonerating DNA evidence not available at trial wasn't decisive to overturn a rape case. When DNA convicts, though, she anbd the CCA overlook any irregularities. Someone mumbles under their breath, "Well, he prob'ly did it, or sumthin we don't know about," and the wheels of justice just grind them up.

It seems only like a matter of time before they prove the Houston crime lab or one of our other, many faulty Texas crime labs convicted an innocent person who was put to death. There's just so many innocence cases arising out of all this, the chances are really good.