When a freezer housing hundreds of DNA samples at the Austin police crime lab broke down this spring, officials were unsure whether heat had damaged critical evidence in pending cases.
Because they had no way of knowing, according to a memo obtained by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, they decided to keep mum. They alerted no one outside the lab — not investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys or judges.
Two months later, the department shuttered the DNA lab, citing multiple issues raised by the Texas Forensic Science Commission that focused primarily on scientific measurements and staff training.
But the freezer memo has only recently emerged — through the work of an outside nonprofit — and is deepening concerns in the criminal justice community about the lab’s operation in recent years.