DPS notifies DAs of possible false drug evidence

May 1, 2012 8:19:30 PM PDT
Thousands of criminal cases across the state are now back under the microscope because of possible inaccuracies made by the Houston DPS Regional Crime Lab.

At this point we don't know what errors that DPS chemist made. The Department of Public Safety won't say. We don't know whether the mistakes were willful, due to negligence, or something else entirely.

According to the Department of Public Safety, there were three errors discovered in a sample of the 100 most recent drug cases analyzed by one forensic scientist at the DPS Houston Regional Crime Lab. Because of that, he now has been suspended and his entire body of work dating back to 2006 is now under scrutiny.

"We notified our prosecutors not to proceed with any cases in which this analyst had tested," Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said.

Lykos says over 6,000 cases statewide will now be reanalyzed.

Among those are 847 in Harris County alone. The Harris County Public Defender's Office received a list from the District Attorney's office. By our count, that's 847 crimes allegedly committed by 347 defendants. Inaccurate tests could have resulted in faulty convictions.

A statement released Tuesday by DPS reads in part: "At this time it has not been determined if any prosecutions were affected by a DPS-Houston crime lab employee's errors..."

The Montgomery County DA says his office has received a list of potential cases. We have also learned that the lab handles cases for Fort Bend, Galveston, Brazoria and Matagorda counties.

Lykos wants to make sure no one was wrongly convicted.

"We're asking that every single one of those be retested," she said. "I mean, all the evidence is introduced in my name. I want to be assured in the integrity of what it is that we present."

An internal DPS investigation is also now underway and it is working to take steps to prevent such mistakes in the future.

The Houston Regional Crime Lab received its DPS accreditation in December 2007 and that lasts until December 1 of this year. Technicians at this lab run tests on controlled substances, toxicology, DNA, firearm toolmarks and trace evidence. It is one of 13 DPS crime labs operating across Texas.


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