Why would some local criminal defense attorneys be singing the praises of ex-HPD crime lab technical supervisor Amanda Culbertson?
Ms. Culbertson left the beleaguered HPD crime lab earlier this year as a result of what she called retaliation on the part of department employees after she raised questions about the accuracy and reliability of breath test machines in the departments BATvans.
Now Harris County Commissioner's Court is looking at whether to renew a contract with Lone Star College to manage breath test machines in the county or turn over their machines to the DPS. Adding drama to the events is the fact that Ms. Culbertson now works for Lone Star College (along with one of her former colleagues Jorge Wong).
Tyler Flood, Mark Thiessen and Brent Mayr spoke at the most recent meeting of the county commissioners to voice their belief that the county is retaliating against Ms. Culbertson for recently speaking out about problems with the BATvans.
Mr. Mayr told county commissioners that the county's technical supervisors are "committed to justice" and to seeking the truth. He said that he believed the contract was in jeopardy because the DA's office was more concerned about chalking up convictions than seeking justice.
Referring to technical supervisors as scientists is stretching the truth just about as far as it can be stretched. Technical supervisors are hired to maintain breath test machines in Texas. Their job is to ensure that the machines are working and to remove malfunctioning machines from service. They must also testify in criminal proceedings that the particular machine was working properly and that the breath test was conducted per Texas guidelines.
They are not paid to be objective. They are not paid to take a critical view of the breath test machine. They are paid to work with police and prosecutors to obtain convictions against motorists accused of driving while intoxicated.
They are no more committed to justice than the rulers of Yemen or Syria.
By singing Ms. Culbertson's praises these attorneys are telling future jurors that she speaks the truth; that she views science as impartial; that she wants to make certain that innocent folks are convicted of DWI.
Is that the image you want jury panels to come into the courtroom with? Are you sure you want to puff up the person who will testify - without any evidence other than a number on a test slip - that your client was intoxicated at the time she was driving?
I understand realpolitik and that the enemy of your enemy may very well be your friend -- but never forget the fox who offered to carry the gingerbread man across the river.
Let the county switch from Lone Star College to the DPS. It doesn't really matter. In the end the police, the technical supervisors and the judges are all working to see that your client is convicted. Maybe Ms. Culbertson had some interesting things to say about the batmobiles -- but it doesn't mean she's a friend of the defense.