Growing introspection in death-penalty capital: Shoddy science by the Houston Police crime lab has prompted more reviews of execution cases.
By Kris Axtman
The Christian Science Monitor
HOUSTON – Before each execution in Texas, lawyers plead with the courts to keep their clients alive. Some claim innocence, others a flawed case. But ever since 280 boxes of uncatalogued evidence were found disintegrating in a Houston Police Department warehouse in August, those arguments have taken on greater meaning in Harris County, long known as the death-penalty capital of the world.
The dusty boxes - mislabeled and improperly stored - contain biological, ballistic, and other evidence from 8,000 county cases, mostly murders, of the past quarter century. So far, officials have not heeded calls to halt executions until the evidence is sorted through. Meanwhile, a second Houston man has been released from prison for a rape he did not commit.
These are the latest developments in the saga of the disgraced Houston Police Department (HPD) crime lab, which was shut down two years ago following reports of shoddy scientific practices.
And while executions occur here routinely, the crime-lab scandal, and the cries of bungled evidence that precede each scheduled execution, have sown new hesitation and doubt among Texans who had come to see DNA evidence as foolproof.
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