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Conviction reversed because Houston crime lab analyst, supervisor did not disclose evidence problems

Posted by Ed McClees | Sep 13, 2018

The Houston Chronicle has reported that a 2014 DWI conviction was reversed by an appellate court because the Houston Forensic Science Center failed to disclose sloppy lab practices.  Sadly, this is not surprising to those who have followed the woes of the Houston Forensic Science Center, which has a long track record of sloppy and deceptive practices. 

The problems outlined in the Chronicle article are particularly troubling.  First, the laboratory committed horrible errors in its labeling practices.  This is inexcusable for a crime lab.  Labeling errors can lead to blood evidence being attributed to the wrong person, which can lead to false evidence being presented by prosecutors during trial.  That is how innocent people get convicted of crimes that they did not commit.

What is even more disturbing is that the crime lab took active efforts to cover their sloppiness.  The supervisors cared more about making sure their employees did not have to answer for their mistakes in court than they did about doing accurate work or doing the right thing.  They were willing to risk innocent people being convicted of crimes if that meant they would not have to face difficult questions on the witness stand.  This is downright sinister.

Most prosecutors are not trained in forensic sciences, and they heavily rely upon the lab employees to give them accurate information.  Many prosecutors have been conditioned to believe what the crime lab employees say as though it is the gospel.  The revelations outlined in the Chronicle article are just another example of why all scientific evidence in a criminal case must be heavily scrutinized.  Due to budget constraints, crime labs often hire technicians rather than actual scientists, and because of their heavy workloads these employees are prone to make mistakes.   

When searching for a lawyer to handle a case where scientific evidence will play a significant role, it is important to hire a lawyer who has experience challenging that type of evidence in court.  If you have any questions about how scientific evidence could affect your case, give us a call.   

About the Author

Ed McClees

Ed is a criminal trial lawyer who is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is a former Harris County District Attorney where he served as chief of the Organized Crime Section, prosecuting cases involving complex organized criminal activities, including Fr...

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