Statement of Senator Rodney Ellis
DNA TESTING PROVES GEORGE RODRIGUEZ INNOCENT;
FORENSIC SCIENTISTS CALL FOR AN AUDIT OF HPD'S SEROLOGY CASES
Houston// -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Barry Scheck and Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project, and other local elected officials and community groups held a press conference to discuss George Rodriguez case and to call for reforms at the Houston Police Crime Lab. New DNA tests results prove that George Rodriguez, who spent 17 years in prison, is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. Papers filed in the 230th District Court on Thursday, August 7, 2004, call for his immediate release, and an audit of thousands of serology cases processed by the Houston Police crime laboratory.
False serology, misleading testimony by HPD lab technicians, and a mistaken identification put George Rodriguez in prison for a crime he did not commit. As a result, Isidiro Yanez, the real perpetrator and a known rapist, was free to roam the streets and continued to brutally attack other women.
The Rodriguez case joins the mounting evidence of recently revealed problems within the Houston Crime Lab. "It would be unfortunate enough if this were merely an isolated incident, but the sad reality is that these cases are becoming all too common," said Sen. Rodney Ellis. "There are far too many George Rodriguez, Josiah Suttons, and Anthony Robinsons who have been wrongly convicted, their lives wasting away in prison for crimes they did not commit. When innocent people are sent to prison it threatens the integrity of the entire criminal justice system."
The George Rodriguez case reveals for the first time that the egregious problems uncovered in the Houston Police Crime Lab DNA in 2003 also affected the serology unit. As a result, thousands of additional cases, covering a much broader range of forensic tests on blood, semen, and other bodily fluids, could require retesting. Representatives of the Innocence Project stated, "An immediate audit of this unit is critical to ensure that no other innocent people were convicted based on the HPD's serological work."
The key evidence at Rodriguez's trial was testimony from Jim Bolding, then supervisor of the HPD lab's serology unit and later head of the DNA unit. An independent panel of the leading forensic serologists in America have issued a joint report rejecting Jim Bolding's testimony in this case as false and "completely contrary to generally accepted scientific principles." Their review of Bolding's testimony finds that he either lacked an elementary understanding of the basics of blood typing analysis or that he knowingly gave false testimony to support the State's case against Rodriguez. The panel concluded that a serious danger exists that Bolding and HPD lab technician Christie Kim might have offered "similarly false and scientifically unsound" reports and testimony in other cases. The panel has called for an independent, comprehensive audit, spanning decades and approximately 5,000 to 10,000 cases, to re-examine the lab's serology work. A similar independent forensic audit recently agreed to by the City of Cleveland in the case of Michael Green.