HPD Responds to Independent Investigator's Fourth
January 4, 2006 -- The Houston
Police Department has taken action to deal with past problems
reported in a new phase of an independent investigator's inquiry
into the HPD Crime Lab. That action includes an investigation
into allegations that analysts failed to report possible exculpatory
DNA results in one capital murder case.
The Department continues to work with the Harris
County District Attorney's
Office on this matter. Three employees identified in the report
have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal
investigation. They are Mary Childs-Henry, Joseph H. Chu, and
Raynard Cockrell. In addition, other cases highlighted involving
serology during the late 1980s have resulted in an expansion of
the audit period to include the years 1980 through 2002. This
decision was made jointly by members of the Crime Lab Recovery
Stakeholder Committee and the independent investigator.
Most of the issues identified in the independent
investigator's fourth report, issued this week, focus on work
previously done and are not a sign of current practice. "We
are using the report to confirm that the changes made within the
Crime Lab over the last two years were correct," said Chief
Hurtt. Examples include:
* Hiring a strong management team to oversee
the DNA operations of the lab.
* Establishing a comprehensive quality assurance
program for the entire lab.
* Revising policies and procedures to ensure
* Completing external audits in preparation for
ASCLD/LAB accreditation of the DNA section.
"Although I am disappointed in what has
been described as a general breakdown in the serology and DNA
sections in the past, I am encouraged by the competent and high-quality
work detected in the Toxicology, Firearms, and Questioned Documents
sections by the independent investigator," said Chief Hurtt.
"We have been and will continue to work to improve the serology
and DNA sections."
The Houston Police Department is aware that
specific recommendations will be forthcoming from the independent
investigator. "Identifying past deficiencies is important,"
said Chief Hurtt. "But also important are recommendations
that will make the Houston Police Crime Lab the best in the nation.
Our recent accreditation by the ASCLD/LAB in the operational areas
of the lab is a step in the right direction."
"We're also proud that all of the reports
by the independent investigator have highlighted the broad cooperation
by the Houston Police Department. We will continue to work with
him, and we will mend the problems identified," said Chief
Hurtt. It has always been Chief Hurtt's goal to establish and
maintain honesty and transparency in all of the Department's operations.
For additional information, please
contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.