Thursday, March 12, 2009

Giving credit where credit is due

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos blasted the Houston Police Department and her predecessor for their roles in the wrongful conviction and imprionment of Ricardo Rachell, who was exonerated in a sexual assault after DNA was (finally) performed on samples taken back in 2002. Mr. Rachell spent more than five years in prison.

Ms. Lykos called for DNA testing in every case in which testing is available and relevant. In addition, Ms. Lykos repeated her call for the shuttering of the HPD Crime Lab and the creation of a regional crime lab, possibly under the auspices of the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office.  The National Academy of Sciences called for the creation of regional crime labs in a recent report exposing problems in today's forensic sciences.

County Judge Ed Emmett, Houston Mayor Bill White and HPD Chief Harold Hurtt all expressed support for the proposal.

Mr. Rachell proclaimed his innocence before, during and after his trial, even going so far as to blame Andrew Wayne Hawthorne for the assaults. Mr. Hawthorne has since been charged with the assault. The DNA testing performed on the rape kit from 2002 excluded Mr. Rachell and pointed toward Mr. Hawthorne.

Ms. Lykos deserves credit for acknowledging that there are innocent people serving time in prison. She likewise deserves credit for her proposal to take the crime lab out of HPD's jurisdiction and put it under a department with no stake in the outcome of a criminal case.

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