DA called to testify about comments on BAT vans

October 28, 2011 4:08:26 PM PDT
Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos' words could be coming back to haunt her as she's called to testify about problems with the city's DWI testing vans. It's the latest chapter in an investigation we've been following for months.

"We were never informed there were questions about whether the tests were valid," Lykos told Eyewitness News on Monday.

A judge wants to hear from the DA herself about why her office doesn't trust the Houston Police Department to run the BAT van program. A judge hearing a DWI case ordered the DA herself to court Thursday afternoon. Defense lawyers wanted Lykos to explain what she said to Eyewitness News about not trusting HPD to supervise the DWI testing program inside the BAT vans.

Lykos couldn't come to court though -- she's at a training conference today in Hawaii.

Waikiki Beach sure does look like a good place to get away from a bad week. Harris Co. DA Pat Lykos is spending three nights here this week. She's not learning to surf; she's presenting a paper at a long-planned drug trafficking conference organized by the Honolulu prosecutor. It's just happening at the Waikiki Beach Hyatt.

But back home Lykos herself was ordered to court to explain DWI tests, and for her, the timing of the trip could probably be better.

"There's no reason for the DA to think this case is reliable," said defense attorney Jacquelyn Carpenter.

The DA's Office is under investigation for possible criminal conduct. A grand jury is apparently trying to figure out if her staff covered up problems with DWI breath tests from HPD BAT vans. The DA told us Monday she wanted HPD to stop supervising the program for good.

When reporter Ted Oberg asked Lykos if she trusted the results coming out of the BAT vans, she responded, "I want the Texas Department of Public Safety to supervise the technicians so everything is done according to protocol."

But the day after Lykos told us that, her prosecutors were in court using HPD BAT van evidence trying to convict Jacquelyn Carpenter's client of driving drunk. Carpenter wants to ask the DA about comments like this on the controversy.

"Do we have an issue where there is tainted scientific or technical evidence? Or is this something not correct and we would let DWIs walk?" Lykos told Eyewitness News on Monday.

But with Lykos out of town , she won't be able to come to court. The jury will instead hear the interview you first saw here on Eyewitness News on Monday.

When Ted Oberg asked her Monday if she did anything wrong, Lykos replied, "Of course not."

The interview will play at the DWI trial on Friday morning. In the meantime, the grand jury met in a separate room Thursday morning. It was their first meeting with a special prosecutor appointed to shepherd their investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing at the DA's Office.

Here's a look at a timeline in the BAT van investigation:

  • Our 13 Undercover investigations exposed maintenance problems with the BAT vans back in March.
  • Emails we uncovered about the Breathalyzer accuracy prompted attorneys to challenge DWI cases connected to the vans.
  • A hearing was held in July where Culbertson openly testified about the lack of response to the BAT van issues.
  • In October, Harris County commissioners terminated a contract with Culbertson's current employer to provide DWI testing in the county.
  • Last Friday, Eyewitness News first reported that the grand jury appeared to be investigating how the DA's Office and HPD handled reports of the BAT van problems.
  • On Tuesday, we confirmed four prosecutors have been subpoenaed in that investigation.

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