Call for Re-examination of Cases from Houston Crime Lab

The independent review of the Houston crime lab leads to a call for a closer examination of 45 cases. The Texas Innocence Network, an organization that works to free people it believes were wrongly convicted, and its national counter-part want to take a closer look at the cases. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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Michael Bromwich, the independent investigator reviewing Houston crime lab tests, issued his latest report earlier this year. For the first time it looked at individual cases. Robert Hoelscher is Deputy Director of the Texas Innocence Network.

"And as they completed this first phase of case review they discovered numerous cases that in their opinion had major issues. And the definition of "major issues", as they applied it, were issues that went directly to the integrity of the testing that was done on that individual case. "

Hoelscher says the innocence networks want to screen those cases in which Bromwich found major problems.

"Not every case, we don't anticipate, that we look at, would reveal circumstance that someone was convicted erroneously."

But, he says, it is likely there may be some wrongful convictions among the problematic cases.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal says the innocence projects got some information about the cases from Bromwich and they have asked for more information from his office.

"Like who the defense attorney was, whether or not the analysis was used in trial and other factors that may have shown or not shown if the defendant was guilty outside of the laboratory analysis. I told him that we would certainly do that and I gave him the name of one my staff members that would be the point person for them to talk to."

Rosenthal says this cooperation is not unusual.

"It is our obligation under the code of criminal procedure not just to convict, but to seek justice, and certainly if someone is in jail or has been convicted for something that they shouldn't have been, I need to know that."

The Bromwich investigation began last year, three years after irregularities surfaced in the DNA section on the crime lab. So far two men have been released from prison based on a review of crime lab evidence.

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Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...