ADVANCES IN DNA TESTING COULD PUT THOUSANDS OF TEXAS CASES IN LEGAL LIMBO
This from the Innocence Blog from October 5, 2015 including most of the Houston Press article.
According to an article in today’s Houston Press, the Texas Department of Public Safety recently identified nearly 25,000 cases involving mixed DNA that may require retesting and could eventually result in a wave of appeals. The impetus is a newer and more sophisticated type of mixed-DNA testing that is far more accurate in narrowing down the pool of potential donors and that may uncover cases which resulted in wrongful convictions.
Up until now, mixed DNA tests could produce very striking results that allowed experts and prosecutors to argue that the chances that a DNA profile belonged to any other individual beside the defendant were one in a million or more. But through a new mixed-DNA testing method, the odds are dramatically reduced—from one in many to one in less than 100, reports the Houston Press. As a result, 25,000 mixed cases dating back to 1999 are going to need to be reviewed to determine which of them resulted in convictions and whether they need to be retested using the new DNA testing method.
General Counsel at the Texas Forensic Science Commission, Lynn Robitaille Garcia, said figuring out a way to tackle evaluating the 25,000 cases will be daunting and costly. The commission will be asking the governor for financial assistance to complete the work.
According to the Press, Galveston will serve as a testing ground in identifying a method by which to figure out which of its retroactive mixed-DNA cases actually resulted in convictions; its methodology could serve as a model for larger jurisdictions. Once the conviction cases are identified, the defendants in those cases will be assisted in finding lawyers to file writs. Prosecutors will then have to be prepared to handle the flood of appeals. In terms of cases currently pending trial, Jack Roady, the district attorney for Galveston County told the Houston Press that he has put a hold on all of the county’s mixed-DNA cases currently pending trial so that he can send them for retesting.
“We have to start identifying the cases and whittling the case list down,” Garcia said to the commission last week, according to the Press. “We have a duty to correct this.”