You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

2,200 convicted persons to be notified of Austin DNA lab problems


Highlights

Number of cases is significantly lower than officials first feared; cases range from 2004 to 2016.

Notices are first step in effort to locate any innocent person who was imprisoned as a result of bad lab work.

The first batch of letters being mailed to 642 people with addresses investigators have been able to verify.

Travis County prosecutors as early as Friday will begin notifying about 2,200 people convicted of crimes — including people in prison for murder and rape — that forensic evidence in their cases might have been flawed because of faulty testing at the Austin police crime lab and that they might be entitled to an appeal.

The first batch of letters will be mailed to 642 people who have addresses that prosecutors and investigators have been able to recently verify, and officials said they are pressing forward to locate the other 1,559 defendants in coming days and to notify them as soon as possible.

The number of notices is significantly lower than officials first feared, when they estimated about 3,600 cases might have had DNA evidence that merited further review. Austin defense attorneys had placed the number closer to 5,000.

Recipients of the notices include defendants who remain incarcerated, who have already served prison terms and been released, or who are currently on probation. Most of the nearly 650 notices set to be mailed Friday will go to defendants who remain behind bars, officials said.

The earliest cases are from 2004 and include convictions as recent as 2016.

“This process is specifically intended to identify a situation where an innocent person was wrongly convicted because of DNA evidence,” Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Thursday. “We are looking at a very small population, if any, but that is the point of this process.”

“If we have someone who is convicted on DNA evidence that isn’t reliable, and it played a material role in their conviction, our duty is to see that justice is done to correct that,” said Assistant District Attorney Dexter Gilford, who supervises the agency’s conviction integrity unit.

The notification to defendants marks the most significant development in the effort to locate any possibly innocent persons who might have been imprisoned as a result of work done by the DNA lab. It comes after months of continued fallout that began with the closure of the facility in June, when a state audit said the lab’s staff were using outdated and incorrect procedures in analyzing DNA evidence.

The facility remains shuttered, and city and county officials are trying to determine whether to try to reopen it or possibly privatize the lab.

Gilford said prosecutors and investigators have been working for weeks to identify defendants whose cases included DNA evidence.

They’ve been working off a spreadsheet provided by Austin police that showed about 6,500 entries. Officials said they learned that some of the entries were duplicates, while other cases didn’t result in any convictions, making further review unnecessary.

“We are trying to identify anyone who suffered an adverse consequence, and DNA was material to that consequence,” Gilford said.

The notices provide information to defendants about what to do if they want their cases reviewed. They may notify the nonprofit Capital Area Private Defender Service, which is in final negotiations to handle much of the work on behalf of the county at a cost still being determined. Some may want to contact private defense lawyers to represent them, officials said.

If requested, defender service staff will review each case to determine the degree to which a case hinged on DNA evidence and whether a convicted person might have grounds for appeal.

“The notices are just the first step,” Gilford said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Policía: Reportes de crímenes en Austin bajan entre hispanos, otros
Policía: Reportes de crímenes en Austin bajan entre hispanos, otros

El número de crímenes reportados por los habitantes de Austin – incluyendo los hispanos – ha bajado en lo que va del año, algo que los oficiales del Departamento de Policía dicen es una “fluctuación normal” y no necesariamente una reacción a las recientes operaciones migratorias en la...
STORMS HEADING EAST: System produces half-inch of rain in parts of Hill Country, weakening as it nears I-35
STORMS HEADING EAST: System produces half-inch of rain in parts of Hill Country, weakening as it nears I-35

2 a.m. update: A fast-moving band of thunderstorms pushing across Central Texas early Wednesday has produced at least a half-inch of rainfall in parts of the Hill Country west of Austin, according to rain gauges monitored by the Lower Colorado River Authority. Some parts of Blanco and Burnet counties have seen at least half an inch of rain, including...
New development deals bring two regional headquarters to Pflugerville
New development deals bring two regional headquarters to Pflugerville

Two new regional headquarters are coming to Pflugerville after the Pflugerville City Council approved two economic development deals at Tuesday night’s meeting. An agreement with Accent Food Services Inc. to build the company’s new regional headquarters at 2919 A.W. Grimes Blvd. was approved, said Amy Madison, executive director of the...
Study: 10,000 steps might not be enough for healthy life
Study: 10,000 steps might not be enough for healthy life

The standard for a healthy amount of exercise has widely been accepted as 10,000 steps a day. However, new research shows this might not be enough.  Researchers in Scotland looked at postal workers and tracked how many steps a day they took — their average was 15,000, according to The New York Times.  Those who achieved...
UPDATE: Eight people hospitalized after new spike in K2 calls
UPDATE: Eight people hospitalized after new spike in K2 calls

8:45 p.m. update: Eight people were taken to the hospital over a roughly one-hour period this evening after Austin medics responded to multiple 911 calls regarding people having negative reactions to the synthetic drug K2, also known as Spice, in areas throughout Austin, EMS officials said. In total, medics tended to 12 people this evening who...
More Stories