The Chronicle's Roma Khanna and Steve McVicker report on the latest damning revelations about the HPD crime lab:
Houston Police Department crime lab analysts fabricated findings in at least four drug cases, an independent investigator reported Tuesday, including one in which a scientist performed no tests before issuing conclusions that supported a police officer's suspicions.
The report, released Tuesday, also casts doubt, for the first time, on the laboratory's largest division, controlled substances, which tests substances suspected of being drugs and performs about 75 percent of HPD's forensics work. The latest problems bring to five the number of crime lab disciplines where errors have been exposed — including DNA, toxicology, ballistics and the blood-typing science of serology.
" 'Drylabbing' is the most egregious form of scientific misconduct that can occur in a forensic laboratory," Michael Bromwich, a former U.S. Justice Department official leading an investigation of the HPD lab, wrote in the report.
"In the crime lab, the instances of drylabbing took the form of controlled substances analysts creating false documentation intended to reflect analytical procedures that were never performed."
Investigators reported finding four instances between 1998 and 2000 in which two analysts, whom they do not name, issued findings for tests they never conducted.
In each case, the analysts' supervisors caught the misrepresentations before the evidence could be introduced in court.
The supervisory structure of the crime lab is criticized in the report:
The report cited the absence of strong leadership and quality-control procedures as major reasons for DNA lab problems. Analysts in the crime lab complained to then-Police Chief C.O. Bradford about the lack of supervision as early as 1999, according to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle in June 2003.
The legacy of Lee P. Brown and Clarence Bradford just keeps growing.
RELATED COVERAGE: Associated Press.