June 25, 2007
We still need a special master for the crime lab

I agree wholeheartedly with Patrick McCann.

When Police Chief Harold Hurtt, Mayor Bill White and Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal were quoted as agreeing that there needs to be in-depth review of hundreds of criminal convictions based upon the frankly non-existent science practiced at the Houston Police Department lab, they were absolutely right. When they all solemnly intoned that a special master, a "czar," if you will, was not needed despite the recommendations of the former Justice Department official who conducted the lengthy investigation into this horror show, they were flat wrong.

Let's be fair. Chief Hurtt and the mayor were not the ones who caused this mess, and Chuck Rosenthal's office has done a solid job of conducting and helping to retest DNA in many questionable cases. However, together, they certainly outnumber the presence of the Innocence Project (the only ones speaking for the folks who were convicted by the bogus reporting of this lab) on the "Committee of Stakeholders," and frankly, with due respect to those gentlemen, it is not in their own self-interest to conduct this investigation with the vigor it deserves.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. It's almost like appointing a guardian ad litem. It has to be someone's sole purpose to make sure that every reviewable case actually gets fully reviewed. It's the nature of projects that in the absence of a dedicated project manager, things fall by the wayside. It's basically the 80-20 rule - most of the effort goes into the big, obvious wins, and the rest gets dealt with on an as-we-have-time basis, because hey, we got most of it done and I've got other stuff that needs my attention and wasn't this project supposed to have finished by now? Either it's somebody's job or it's nobody's job, and it needs to be somebody's job.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 25, 2007 to Crime and Punishment