Crime labs are incredibly important to criminal cases, on both sides. The prosecution relies on forensic evidence to obtain a conviction. That very same evidence could hold the key to exoneration. And yet, for their importance, crime labs in Texas are surprisingly underregulated.
Problems in Texas Crime Labs
One need only look as far as the Austin DNA lab, shuttered last year as a result of widespread issues. An investigation by Austin’s KXAN news network unveiled information that could have affected thousands of criminal cases. The Austin lab and several others across the state used flawed science calculating odds in DNA testing. There were additional concerns about analysts using scientifically invalid methods and potential contamination of samples.
After the report came out, the Travis County District Attorney’s office began the process of notifying the defendants in nearly 3,600 cases that the DNA analysis that contributed to their prosecution may have been incorrect.
It’s not just Austin – last year, news came out that thousands of DWI convictions in North Texas may have been erroneous due to mixups in DWI blood and breath tests. In one particularly egregious case, a woman who had no alcohol in her system faced testimony claiming her BAC was nearly double the legal limit. Fortunately, she was able to dodge jail time for the crime she did not commit.