Sunday, January 22, 2017

Forensic Science Commission deserves funding, and other stories

A few odds and ends which merit Grits readers' attention:


Anonymous said...

To bad they didn't jail Smith county DA's office!

Anonymous said...

If the Houston Comical is advocating a criminal justice reform issue, it's probably a bad idea.

Curious said...

Anon 7:13 exactly why do you think the Smith County DA office should be jailed?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Make a point, 8:19, not a smear. Finish this sentence: "17-year olds should be prosecuted as adults because _______." See if you can do it without "probably."

Anonymous said...

So, Mr. Hartfield's convictions were tossed on appeal... twice? thrice? and he's still in prison?

Grits, please keep us updated on this.

Anonymous said...

"The legal record shows that Jerry Hartfield’s first murder conviction was thrown out on appeal, and for the next 32 years, he was not officially guilty of anything, not sentenced to anything. Yet he spent that time in Texas prisons..."

So, why is this not considered "unlawful restraint" or "false imprisonment"?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I think that's why they let him out on a habeas writ, 8:42.

Anonymous said...

The FSC deserves MORE money??

Given that the Forensic Science Commission is costing the State upwards of $14 million for the APD debacle, I would argue that they should be scuttled until the State can hire competent, law abiding scientists who understand their position as Commissioners. Remove Lynn Garcia because she clearly doesn't understand the legal wording of TCCP 38.01 or her role as general council (to make sure the rest of the Commission is following the law as written). The people who have served before on the Commission lacked accountability. They weren't blamed for making knuckle-headed decisions. No fear of losing anything. Oops (to quote Rick Perry).

Make the FSC a paying gig, so that when screw-ups do occur, people get demoted, reprimanded, and fired (similar to the lab managers who lost their jobs at APD). Imagine if any other civil servant had cost the State upwards of $14 million. Would they get to keep their job?

Anonymous said...


I meant from a civil or criminal liability. Sure, they may (or may not) let him out now, but that doesn't cover the previous 32 years.

"Prosecutors argued that while the government was negligent, the defendant was partly to blame for the delays. For more than two decades, they said, he acquiesced in his imprisonment without trial, as a ploy to avoid the death penalty and to make it harder to mount a case against him..."

Which Prosecutor stated this? And how are still employed? Analogous to IQ limitations for the Death Penalty, maybe there should be a legal limit for IQs for practicing attorneys. Attorneys with IQs low enough to make statements such as the above, shouldn't be walking around in public.

Anonymous said...


The Commission is the only oversight agency to reveal the problems at the APD lab. Every other audit and assessment passed them by without incident. Try reading the report.

Anonymous said...


The 2016 FSC Report doesn't mention that APD lab analyst Cecily Hamilton reported the problems back in 2010. That is, the FSC knew...but did nothing. Try paying attention to the details.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton's 2010 complaint did not report the technical problems that were identified in the 2016 FSC report on APD. Conceivably it could have. It was written in February 2010. The SWGDAM DNA interpretation guidelines were released in January 2010. If Hamilton had read and understood those guidelines, then she could have raised a number of technical issues in her complaint. But she did not do this.

So, to state that the technical problems identified in the 2016 FSC report were previously reported by Hamilton is factually incorrect.

The issues identified at APD came out of the FSC's state-wide review of DNA mixture interpretation procedures. Had APD embraced the results of that review, gotten its staff the training they needed, and made the necessary changes to its protocols, then there would have been no FSC audit, and APD would be doing DNA now, but at a greatly improved level. The FSC audit came about because APD failed to adjust its operations in light of the state-wide review.

That APD did not make these simple, straight-forward adjustments is a reflection upon the APD management, which did not make the obviously correct choices.

Anonymous said...

anony 7:25-

"...Hamilton's 2010 complaint did not report the technical problems that were identified in the 2016 FSC report on APD..."

That didn't stop the FSC from writing a report in 2011 "legitimizing" the APD/Texas Rangers/ASCLD-LAB Reports. Without performing an investigation themselves, the FSC discredited Hamiltons's claims, which we now know was a cover-up. They are just as much to blame.

Anonymous said...


American Statesman, July 2010 -
"Hamilton claimed that Morales was being tested to see whether she should be allowed to conduct independent DNA analysis at the lab and suspected that Carradine was helping Morales with her [DNA statistical] computations...Hamilton also complains about Carradine's management, her co-workers' productivity and Morales' ability to do the job... there are several references to mistakes in casework and to contamination...she [Hamilton] said, "The main thing I said is there was an analyst (Morales) in the middle of the DNA process who just doesn't know what she's doing.""

This Summary of Hamilton's allegations comes from the September 2011 FSC Report
(1) DNA contamination occurred at the Lab, including contamination of drug packaging evidence in a high-profile case involving the APD shooting death of Nathaniel Sanders in May 2009.
(2) One of the analysts took an unusually long period of time to complete her DNA training (implying incompetence by the analyst).
(3) Impropriety occurred during competency exams (that the DNA Technical Leader helped an analyst cheat).
(4) The DNA Technical Leader was not qualified to lead the Lab.

So, it's not as if APD's DNA lab went to hell when they implemented quant-based stochastic threshold methodology in April 2010 (after Hamilton's allegations). Hamilton reported that simple mathematics was the issue and that the DNA Supervisors did not have what it takes to report DNA statistics, pre- or post-SWGDAM DNA interpretation guidelines.

FSC Report 2016, also stated that many issues they saw (e.g. contamination) go as far back as 2009 (before Hamilton's allegations). As reported by the Austin Chronicle Dec 2106, "the Texas Forensic Science Commission revealed a hefty list of longstanding issues: unapproved DNA testing procedures, inaccurate quality assurance methods, unqualified lab technicians and management, and clear signs of contaminated evidence."

Hmmm, sounds a lot like Hamilton's allegations from 2010. Details, details.