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Posts Tagged ‘forensics’

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences officially opens

Excellent news. The greater Houston region now has a sophisticated asset to investigate and solve crimes with the official opening of the new Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS). Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and other dignitaries, including Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new facility on Thursday […]

HPD wants control of crime scene forensics for officer-involved shootings

No. Houston’s acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo, with the support of the powerful Houston Police Officers Union, has made a behind-closed-doors bid to take back control over the troubled Crime Scene Unit from the city’s independent forensic science lab. The Crime Scene Unit is small but critical – its technicians gather and photograph evidence from […]

DNA mixtures

Grits reports on the latest developments in forensics at a hearing of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, and what it means to the legal system in Texas and elsewhere. First, a bit of background. DNA testing looks at two metrics on X and Y axes: Whether alleles are present at various loci, and the quantity […]

Forensic Science Commission to examine bite mark evidence

Good. The board charged with ensuring that reliable scientific evidence is used in Texas courtrooms agreed on Friday to investigate cases in which bite mark analysis was used to secure a conviction. “We’re talking about the whole field, the validity of the field of bite marks,” said Dr. Vincent DiMaio, the chief presiding officer at […]

More on the new Crime Lab boss

Meet Dr. Daniel Garner, the CEO and president of the Houston Forensic Science Center. Daniel Garner was ready to drift quietly into retirement after decades on the forefront in the field of forensic science. The last part of his career had the 66-year-old on the go, traveling to foreign countries for the U.S. Department of […]

Is there any valid evidence of Todd Willingham’s guilt left?

The Washington Post has a long piece examining the connection between the jailhouse snitch whose testimony helped send Cameron Todd Willingham to death row and the prosecutor who has long denied taking any action to influence that testimony. For more than 20 years, the prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham of murdering his three young […]

How much will science advance in the courts?

It’s up to the CCA to decide. Texas’ highest criminal court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect how evolving scientific evidence is used in courtrooms across the state. For Neal H. Robbins, the high court’s decision will determine whether he gets another shot at arguing his innocence. In 1999, a jury […]

More evidence of Cameron Willingham’s innocence

The scientific evidence against Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three children, has long been discredited. The other piece of evidence used against him at trial was the testimony of a jailhouse informer, who said that Willingham confessed to him. Now that piece of evidence is under […]

Anthony Robinson named to crime lab LGC

Excellent choice. The latest appointment to the city’s crime lab oversight board brings a unique perspective to the post. Anthony Robinson spent 10 years in prison for a rape he did not commit before being exonerated by the kind of DNA testing the proposed new crime lab will perform. “I am very sensitive to the […]

Bite marks

Grits reminds us that not all forensic science is scientific. I ran across an interesting article documenting critiques of forensic dentistry. In it, bite mark expert Dr. Gregory Golden: concedes that there’s little scientific research to back claims from forensic odontologists in court — but he hopes to see that change. “What we’re trying to […]

Meet the new Crime Lab boss

He sounds impressive. The fuzzy process of shifting the city of Houston’s crime lab from the Houston Police Department to an independent board got a little clearer Wednesday with the hiring of a president and CEO for the new operation. The appointed board of the city’s year-old forensic science corporation selected Dr. Daniel Garner after […]

Solving car crimes with DNA

This story is basically a commercial for Harris County’s crime lab – Did you know that since they have no testing backlog on personal crime cases they can focus on property crimes? It’s true! – but it’s still pretty cool. For the last few years, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences aided area law […]

Senate approves rape kit testing bill

Earlier this week I mentioned a bill, SB1636, by Sen. Wendy Davis that aimed at getting thousands of untested rape kits analyzed. I’m pleased to say that it was passed unanimously by the Senate today, and now heads to the House. SB 1636 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would require a police department […]

Two forensic bills

Texas has thousands of untested rape kits in it, and a bill to try to make something happen with them. The bill, by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would require a police department to submit a rape kit to a crime lab within at least 10 days, and complete the DNA analysis no later than […]

Some criminal justice quick hits

Some short commentary on a few articles that have appeared lately and were worth mentioning. Murray Newman disputes the need for a public defender’s office in Harris County. I’m perfectly willing to accept the idea that there’s a better way to handle things, but only on the condition that some other alternative to the status […]

Yet another innocence frontier

Scent lineups. The Innocence Project of Texas said Friday that scent identification lineups, in which trained dogs determine if a suspect’s smell matches the smell of crime scene evidence, are based on faulty science and have led to a number of wrongful convictions. The group, which tries to free the wrongly convicted, said it will […]

More on the Willingham report

Now that the Texas Commission on Forensic Sciences has received its report on the botched investigation of Cameron Todd Willingham and the likelihood that he was convicted and executed for a non-crime, will that help improve forensic standards so that tragedies like this can be avoided in the future? Questions of investigators’ competence in the […]

CSI: Needs Improvement

Looks like Gil Grissom got out at just the right time. Crime labs nationwide must be overhauled to prevent the types of mistakes that put innocent people in prison and leave criminals out on the street, researchers have concluded. A 255-page report from the National Academy of Sciences is urging creation of national standards of […]

Report: Most elected officials refuse to contribute to their own prosecution

That’s what the headline to this story should read. Public records examined by the Austin American-Statesman show that most elected officials who have been stopped on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in recent years have declined to consent to a blood or breath sample. The newspaper reported Sunday that it turned up cases involving more […]

Innocence

Lisa Falkenberg examines what Circuit Judge Jacques L. Wiener Jr. referred to as “the elephant in the room” in granting a stay of execution to Larry Swearingen. The nation’s highest court hasn’t directly addressed whether a claim of actual innocence can be made in late appeals, so federal appeals courts are left to their own […]