Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fort Bend DA failed to notify defense of alleged misconduct by DPS lab worker

Kudos to the Houston Chronicle's Lisa Falkenberg for the first MSM coverage ("Area prosecutors interpret duties to justice differently," March 18) since the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals began tossing out convictions based on the allegedly fraudulent performance of Jonathan Salvador, who was fired from the DPS crime lab in Houston last year after it was discovered he faked results in identifying Alprazolam tablets. Her report compares the response by Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady, who promptly notified defendants and agreed to habeas writs dismissing cases where Salvador's evidence was key, and Fort Bend County DA John Healey who has yet to notify any defendants except for a few, informal conversations with defense counsel around the courthouse.
in Fort Bend County, no letters were sent, no panel appointed. In terms of the cases already tried, District Attorney John Healey told me last week that lawyers in a few were notified verbally, but that he had planned to wait until retesting from DPS before sending a broad alert to those convicted and their lawyers.

As a result, many sitting on probation or in prison based upon what could well be falsified evidence are unaware of that fact. 
Wrote Falkenberg, "If you need another example of the varying ways in which prosecutors in this state interpret their duty to do justice, here it is." She quoted the Fort Bend DA justifying his stance:
Healey found the recent appeals court ruling "illuminating and instructive" but disagrees with the court that the relative few errors identified in Salvador's cases have "the potential to taint his other work."

That said, Healey says he now feels compelled to send notices to those who may be affected
Damn nice of him, isn't it, to comply with his Brady obligation even if he disagrees with the Court of Criminal Appeals? What hubris! Don Bankston, the former First Assistant DA in Fort Bend County, speculated that Healey was "trying to save their cases" by delaying notification.

The next Court of Criminal Appeals "hand down list" will come out tomorrow. Based on their prior rulings, expect more of Salvador's cases to be on the roster of approved habeas corpus writs.

See prior, related Grits posts:


Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, you said - "This story hasn't received much traction in the MSM so far, mainly because the big papers no longer routinely send reporters to cover the activities of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which has been reviewing details of the episode. I'll bet that changes,..."

(See prior, related Grits post: - "Convictions overturned based on DPS...")

BTW, the Chronicle is linking to GFB more and more and the editors are tripping out that a blog has the scoop, as shown in their last minute decision to send in The Falken. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Man, I hate that they put her stories behind the pay wall now. If I was going to pay money to see anyone, it would be her, but I'm just not that kinda guy.


JH said...

The CCA granted habeus relief in several of these cases in their last hand down list.