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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Report Calls for DNA Justice for All. . . or at Least 413

From chron.com: DNA testing should be provided free to prisoners in at least 413 cases in which substandard or incomplete serology work was originally performed by the Houston Police Department's crime lab, according to a report released today by the special investigator hired to examine HPD's much-maligned forensic work in thousands of cases.

The document, the final report filed in the $5.3 million independent investigation into the crime lab, also suggests that a special master be appointed to further review more than 180 of those serology cases in which "major issues" have been discovered.

The findings are included in Michael Bromwich's final report on the only comprehensive investigation of problems at the Houston crime lab, which have unfolded over the past 4 1/2 years, casting doubt on thousands of convictions and unsettling the criminal justice system in Houston and beyond.

The scandal also forced the city to conduct retesting of DNA evidence in 414 cases. Bromwich's team reviewed 135 of those cases, and found "major problems" in 43 — or 32 percent. The cases include those of four death row inmates: Franklin Dwayne Alix, Juan Carlos Alvarez, Gilmar Alex Guevara, and Derrick L. Jackson. With HPD's approval, the independent investigation forwarded information about each of these DNA major issue cases to the Innocence Project network that is exploring what additional steps, if any, should be taken on behalf of these defendants, according to a press release by Bromwich.

In his latest report, Bromwich recommends further testing in two of the 43 DNA cases — that of defendants Ronald Cantrell and Lonnie Van Zandt, both sexual assault cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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