The Artist Formerly Known as HPD Crime Lab
From the early 2000s the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, currently known as the Houston Forensic Science Center, has exemplified scandal. It is indeed why Houston is the nation’s frontrunner in wrongful convictions and why Houston criminal defense attorneys cringe at the sight of a forensic report analyzed by the lab.
Notable lab issues since 2002:
2002: Forensic testing temporarily suspended. Over 6,000 untested rape kits discovered (this backlog persists until 2013 when the work gets outsourced for $4.4 million).
March 2003: New York times questions if the HPD Crime Lab is the worst crime lab in the country
Nov. 2003: Report on the destruction of DNA Evidence and the possibility of pardons.
December 2003: Internal investigation ends with nine HPD crime lab technicians suspended and one terminated for shoddy lab work, amongst other serious problems.
January 2004: The aforementioned terminated analyst is reinstated to previous position one month later.
May 2005: HPD receives national accreditation through Americans Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD).
June 2005: A month after receiving national accreditation, it is reported HPD crime lab analysts faked drug evidence.
January 2006: Independent research and testing reveals of the 1100 reviewed samples, 40% of DNA samples, and 23% of blood evidence samples had serious errors.
October 2007: Houston Chronicle publishes allegations of HPD crime lab Employees cheating on an open-book proficiency test.
December 2007: HPD Lab analyst indicted on theft, tampering charges. Probe into 200 narcotic cases he handled.
January 2008: HPD shuts down DNA unit again.
December 2009: Irregularities and problems with HPD finger print analyses arise.
January 2010: HPD backlog problem. 300 cases in need of firearm forensics. Backlog on DNA cases continues.
July 2011: Former supervisors at HPD crime lab testify and quit over accuracy of alcohol tests.
Feb 2013: HPD crime lab tech admits to colleagues he wasn’t following protocol when tests found to be inaccurate. Investigation reveals additional lying, improper procedures, and tampering with evidence. He is not indicted by a grand jury.
2014: Nearly two dozen cases are effective after investigation reveals a Houston homicide detective was lying.
April 2014: Mayor transfers HPD Lab to a government corporation. Renames lab Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC). 48 HPD officers employed by the lab that offices at HPD headquarters.
January 2014: Texas Forensic Science Commission issues a report finding professional negligence on the part of HFSC employees and DWI blood alcohol analysis.
February 2015: Rape-kit backlog cleared up.
May 2015: It is learned HFSC contaminated DWI blood alcohol evidence and failed to report and notify.
March 2016: Houston’s Office of Inspector General recommends the HFSC revise its policy procedures concerning quality control, following an investigation into contaminated DWI evidence.
March 2016: HFSC employee testifies analyst ignored court’s DWI discovery evidence and withheld exculpatory evidence.
April 2016: ???
In order to be admissible in court forensic evidence must not only be relevant, but reliable. The above list casts doubt on the reliability of any forensic evidence coming from the HFSC and any serious Houston criminal lawyer should proceed with caution.