Senators Address Houston Crime Lab Crisis
Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire of Houston and Vice-Chair Tommy Williams of the Woodlands said today that they will send a letter to the Mayor of Houston asking him to take immediate action to correct problems in the city's forensics lab. The announcement comes in light of an embattled crime lab in Houston accused of poor practice in hundreds of criminal cases, including 28 death penalty cases. The Houston lab has faced a number of charges, ranging from using poor facilities that could taint evidence, to more than 200 boxes of unopened evidence found in the lab's possession. These accusations have led to some concern over whether or not tainted evidence could have resulted in wrongful conviction. "In Texas, we want to be tough on crime," said Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, "But to be tough on crime, we have to be fair and just, and I for one want us to bend over backwards to be sure that we don't convict ever an innocent person."
Senator Whitmire lamented the lack of independent oversight in the case of the Houston crime lab, saying the city is not doing enough to rectify that problem. "It is time for the city of Houston to see this with the urgency of Senator Willams and I," said Whitmire, "Because of that, Senator Williams and I have sent a letter to the Mayor of Houston urging him to ask the Texas Rangers to come to Houston and take charge of this crime lab crisis." The Texas Rangers, said Whitmire, conduct the best forensics work of any law enforcement body in the state, and would be equal to the task of finding and correcting any problems they find in the Houston crime lab.
Governor Rick Perry released a proclamation today naming two emergency issues for the 79th Session, Adult and Child Protective Services and school finance reform. Perry called for $253 million in additional money for CPS to hire 800 new investigators, support staff and clerks, as well as offer $5,000 retention bonuses to current investigators and a five percent pay raise for other employees. The governor's proclamation also called for 144 additional case workers for Adult Protective Services. Under education, the governor asked for a finance system that improves student performance and accountability, as well as budget accountability and transparency. Perry also requested that changes to the finance system must promote job growth and ensure that property taxes are reduced.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, January 25th, at 11:00 A.M.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.