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Archive for the ‘Crime Labs’ Category

Texas Forensic Science Commission

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

On the heels of a recent uproar over secrecy, suppressed findings and untimely dismissals, Governor Rick Perry’s newly appointed Chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission outlines his ideas for the Texas Forensic Science Commission here.  The Blog Grits for Breakfast, reports on a story from Texas Lawyer that the newly appointed chair, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, has the following ideas for the commission going forward:

  • Making investigations secret and meetings about them closed.
  • Re-education of commissioners: “Bradley says that when people act as investigators and judges, they typically should have some background in that work. Most members of the commission don’t do investigative work and need training, he says.”
  • Lengthening terms for commissioners. (No word why the governor couldn’t just reappoint if continuity is so important.)
  • Creating new rules and procedures for the commission (no detail).
  • “Clarifying” whether the commission has authority to investigate the Willingham case. (He seems unwilling to take his former boss Sen. John Whitmire’s word for it.)

DNA Testing and the Crime Lab

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Most observers of the DNA testing progams and crime labs in Texas will note that many of the wrongfully convicted in Texas that are ultimately released from custody  because of re-testing of DNA material come from Dallas County.  (Blog Grits for Breakfast notes that there have been 19 from Dallas and 35 overall.)  Some would argue that Dallas has been more aggressive in its prosecutions than other places, resulting in more wrongfully convicted individuals.  Lawyers in this particular field might tell you that they are lucky because Dallas kept the DNA material for long periods of time, so re-testing is an option in these cases. Observers will also tell you that the Harris County crime lab became infamous during the first part of the decade for its sloppy procedures and poor work.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston, which has seen five DNA exonerees in recent years, will change many of its policies relating to the handling of DNA evidence in an effort to prevent wrongful convictions.  First and foremost?  The prosecutors office will “require prosecutors to test DNA evidence in every case where it is available and relevant to prevent miscarriages of justice,” reports the Houston Chronicle.