Monday, January 16, 2017

Exhibit A: Austin PD DNA lab mess argues for independent crime labs

What a breathtaking mess the managers of Austin PD's now-closed DNA lab finds themselves in, and how fortunate for former Chief Art Acevedo that he picked up a new gig in Houston before all the details of the story came out. This writer has criticized APD under Acevedo for focusing too much money and attention on patrol while downplaying the importance of investigations, support staff, and civilian functions like the crime lab. All those issues are now coming home to roost in the form of Austin PD's DNA lab disaster.

The lede to the latest Statesman story on the Austin DNA lab fiasco offered examples of red flags which should have prompted earlier review:
Long before the Austin Police Department’s DNA crime lab was shuttered, prosecutors and defense lawyers were second-guessing its work. 
In 2009, prosecutors raised red flags about DNA results in a rape case, later dismissed the charges against the suspect and eventually hired two private labs to double check the department’s results before refiling them. 
In 2015, a rape suspect’s trial expert said the lab’s results were so riddled with corrections and bad math that the defense should order new tests. 
And in early 2016, prosecutors hired an expert to review 17 criminal cases for potential problems. That expert found mistakes in all of them. 
The story concluded:
Every case the APD lab touched needs to be reviewed, [defense attorney Darla] Davis said. 
“This has been bad,” she said. “It’s bad for both sides. It’s a catastrophe for the whole criminal justice system.”
She's not overselling it, this is a mind boggling mess. If I were a chief with a crime-lab attached to my department, I'd be looking to offload it to some other agency with scientific expertise, or as an independent entity, like in Houston.

Let's call this story Exhibit A in the case for why cops shouldn't be in charge of scientists.


Anonymous said...


Do you have an email? I'd like to discuss with you on what we can do to get a law changed.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anonymous said...

So, well before Cecily Hamilton's 2010 claim that APD supervisors and managers were incompetent, both prosecutor and defense attorneys were suspicious of APD crime lab's scientific abilities...yet no one reported this to the Forensic Science Commission or accreditation agencies??

Instead, Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys did nothing, and watched the bizarre slow-motion trainwreck of APD and Texas Rangers cover-up investigation (regarding Cecily Hamilton's claims) while the FSC sat on it's collective ass doing nothing.

A lot of people suspected problems, but no one did anything. And the APD/Texas Ranges/DPS/FSC proved what everyone already suspected -- that they weren't up to the task either.

We've learned nothing since Willingham.

This will cost taxpayer upwards of $14 million. And no one will be held responsible.

Let's blame the Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys who knew, yet did nothing. They can work pro bono to clean up the mess.

Anonymous said...

"As an accredited forensic science service provider, the APD Forensic Science Division has already demonstrated its commitment to providing quality forensic services. The staff and management of the APD are well qualified professionals, who are dedicated to the cause of justice for the citizens of Austin. The APD should be proud of its efforts and its staff in these units. The opportunities and recommendations, included in this report, are not meant to detract
from the quality work and positive impact of these professionals. Rather, these recommendations should be considered as opportunities to strengthen an already proven organization."

And if you pull this leg, it plays Jingle Bells.

Anonymous said...


The so-called "independent" Houston Forensic Science Center is NOT immune from oversight stupidity.