Thursday, September 01, 2005

DA Won't Retry Victim of Houston PD Crime Lab Incompetence and Corruption

George Rodriguez, who spent 17 years in prison for a child rape he did not commit, thanks to false scientific evidence courtesy of the Houston Police Department crime lab, will not be retried. Even "hang 'em high" DA Chuck Rosenthal couldn't bring himself to put Rodriguez on trial again. Rodriguez was one case of many that were botched by the grossly mismanaged HPD crime lab. A co-defendant in his case had fingered another man as his accomplice, but HPD said the scientific evidence excluded that man and pointed to Rodriguez. Oops. Turns out that the scientific evidence actually excluded Rodriguez and pointed to the man originally named as a co-defendant. That man cannot be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has run. It is not clear if the mistake was one of gross incompetence or pure fraud, but either way, this is a case of justice denied all around.

All is not roses for Mr. Rodriguez, however. Under Texas's compensation law for the wrongfully convicted, the district attorney must provide a letter attesting to the individual's "actual innocence" for him to even qualify. While Rosenthal hasn't said whether he would provide such a letter for Rosenthal, he has already refused to provide one for Josiah Sutton, another young man who was exonerated by retesting of DNA evidence originally supplied by the HPD crime lab, because the victim is "steadfast" in her identification, and he doesn't want to hell her she is a "liar." That is total bunk. The fact that the victim is steadfast in her identification is irrelevant. Scientific evidence exonerates him. And the idea that he would have to tell her she is a liar is equally preposterous. No one is saying the woman lied. She was mistaken--something that can easily be understood for someone who was traumatized in the way she was. But, no matter how horrible the ordeal was for her, Josiah Sutton should not have to continue to suffer because of her mistake. Rosenthal's refusal to provide the letter is inexcusable and the behavior befitting a stubborn child rather than an elected public servant.


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