June 15, 2007
Right message, wrong messenger

I said yesterday that I believe a special master is needed to oversee the review of the many questionable convictions brought about by the problems with the HPD crime lab. I think it would be a good idea for someone with some gravitas on this issue to speak out about the need for a special master, and why it would be good for everyone, the police and District Attorney's office included. I don't, however, think this is the best person for that job.

"It looks like to me that they're trying to sweep some of their final problems under the rug," state Rep. Kevin Bailey, chairman of the House Committee on Urban Affairs said Thursday.


Bailey, D-Houston, said a special master is needed to examine the cases because the local criminal justice system should not investigate itself.

"That's why so many people don't have a lot of confidence in the judicial system in Harris County," Bailey said. "Not just because of the problems of the past, but (criminal justice officials) continue to not get it, and they continue to appear to ignore the facts and the proper way to resolve these cases."

While serving as chairman of General Investigating and Ethics during the 2003 and 2005 sessions of the Legislature, Bailey held hearings into the crime lab scandal, which was uncovered in 2002. He remains a member of that committee in addition to chairing Urban Affairs. Bailey was also instrumental in the passage of legislation requiring accreditation for all crime labs in the state that perform DNA testing.

Although he has not discussed the the final report with other state leaders, Bailey said he envisions some form of joint pressure by his Urban Affairs committee and the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics.

"Urban Affairs has authority over the cities, so we could do it alone," Bailey said, "but the General Investigating committee has much greater subpoena power."

If Rep. Bailey had made a peep when anti-clean air bill SB1317, which its own author said was "about city sovreignity", was moved out of Urban Affairs and into Environmental Regs so that it would be ensured easy passage, then I might take his insistence of the might of Urban Affairs more seriously. I agree with what Rep. Bailey is saying here. I'm just not impressed by the fact that he said it. If and when someone else gets on this train, then we can talk.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 15, 2007 to Crime and Punishment