HARRIS COUNTY (KTRK) --An audit of the Harris County Precinct 7 Constable's Office is raising concerns about evidence being kept by the department. Lawyers are being urged to verify evidence in their cases.
"It's like a virus is running through the county. I can't believe this is happening. It's shocking," said Tyler Flood, President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.
It's the second property room at a constable's office to come under fire. The Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office destroyed evidence, which has led to at least 100 cases being dismissed so far. The concerns at Precinct 7 are about missing evidence.
The following statement was sent to prosecutors Thursday concerning the discovery:
If you have a Precinct 7 case where evidence or property was submitted to the Precinct 7 evidence and property room, you must confirm that the evidence or property is still in the possession of Precinct 7 before proceeding with prosecution. In such situations you should suggest that defense counsel visit the property room and personally inspect the evidence or property if he or she has any concerns as to the existence of the evidence or property.
If you learn that the evidence or property cannot be located, you must promptly inform defense counsel.
If you have a Precinct 7 case that had no physical evidence or property submitted to the Precinct 7 evidence property room you may proceed with prosecution as you would in any other case.
"It absolutely shatters trust in these agencies," explained Flood.
However, Precinct 7 Constable May Walker says not so fast.
"I'm assuring the prosecutors, the district attorneys and the community we have no missing property in our property room. Everything is available and can be presented," said Walker in a news conference Thursday evening.
Walker did admit there was a problem back in July when county auditors showed up and couldn't find some things. Since then, she has increased staff from one to three. The previous property room custodian retired and they've completely reorganized, accounting for every piece of property, according to Walker.
"I am angry. This was a conversation between auditors and Precinct 7 and I don't know how it's blown up into an issue," Walker added.
The DA's office says it became an issue Thursday when they received the auditor's report citing concerns. They then had to notify defense counsel. Walker says she thought she'd get another chance to show auditors her improved property room before it became a public concern.