After learning the Houston Police Department Crime Lab was roughly as reliable as flipping a coin, the police department and district attorney’s office are taking measure to begin regaining credibility.
Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos has taken a huge leap in that direction with her announcement that she will require prosecutors to test DNA evidence in every case where it is available.
‘We are going to establish clear policies regarding forensics,’ Lykos told the Houston Chronicle on March 12.
The article stated that DNA testing has exonerated five men in Harris County who were wrongfully convicted over the past few years.’
One of whom is Ricardo Rachell, convicted of sexual assaulting of a young boy.’ In 2002, Rachell was sentenced to 40 years in prison. DNA evidence was available, but was not tested until 2008, which then established Rachell’s innocence.’
The DNA evidence also led investigators to the actual perpetrator, who had committed other assaults after Rachell was sent to prison.’
This story and others are glaring indicators of the intrinsic injustice that has permeated the Harris County ‘justice system’ for so long.’
This time around, Lykos is not proposing a crime lab run by the police department, but rather a regional lab housed at the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office.’
Mayor Bill White has promised his support of such a move, as has Police Chief Harold Hurtt.’
‘I don’t think we have a choice.’ If we are ever going to have the full confidence of the community, we are going to have to make this move,’ Hurtt told the Houston Chronicle on March 12.
City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones is equally supportive of the move to establish an independent lab.’
‘Let me be clear, a law enforcement department should never be in the business of performing science on the very accused citizens it is responsible for arresting and building a case against,’ she said in a Houston Chronicle editorial on March 25.’
Jones was instrumental in exposing the fraud and inaccuracies emanating from the crime lab in 2002 and has spent a decade fighting for an independent and trustworthy lab.’
DNA testing is critical in the determination of guilt and innocence, as it is irrefutable. Harris County’s move has gone far to re-establish its credibility.
Mildred Scott is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected].