Getting the innocent out of jail

November 12, 2009 5:02:36 PM PST
At the same time the Harris County DA is trying to put the guilty away, she is looking hard for ways to find innocent people in prison. Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos is just back from Washington, where she told Congress she needs its help. At the same time the Harris County DA is trying to put the guilty away, she is looking hard for ways to find innocent people in prison. Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos is just back from Washington, where she told Congress she needs its help.

The Harris County DA's office is likely best known for convicting people and sending them to jail. In just the last 12 months, the office won more than 31,000 convictions.

But this week, Lykos was in the nation's capitol talking to the Senate about the innocent and finding ways to correct wrongful convictions.

"You have to have transparency," she said. "If a mistake is made, you have to acknowledge it. That's how you have the trust and confidence of the public."

Since taking office, Lykos set up a team to review questionable past convictions. She says three people have already been exonerated in Harris County and two more cases are under review right now.

She blames past mistakes, in part, on faulty crime lab work in Harris County.

"We need to prevent future injustices," said Lykos.

Tuesday, she went to Congress, asking them to fund a pilot program in Harris County to build a first of its kind federally-funded regional crime lab to be based in the Medical Center. She hopes it would reduce evidence testing backlogs and raise the validity of testing in future cases.

"There are so many crimes that we can solve and dangerous criminals we can put behind bars with the technology," said Lykos. "This is an incredible tool."

The senators who heard the testimony did not act on Lykos' request. They did tell her they may visit to see Houston's problems and potential solutions first hand.

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