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Bailey continues probe of Crime Lab, finds results “Outrageous”

“This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. We need to know that everyone is treated fairly in our criminal justice system, that evidence is analyzed correctly, and that an analyst never again takes a witness stand in a criminal trail claiming to be an expert when they are not. We were all told years ago that DNA was infallible and we wouldn’t have innocent people being convicted. Well, we forgot about human error and misconduct,” says state Rep. Kevin Bailey, D- North Houston.

He went on to say, “We now face the potential that we are dealing with two different problems in the crime lab: scientific incompetence and a lack of integrity. It appears there may have been efforts made by some analyst to conform their findings to the detective’s theory of the case.”

“That’s what we need to protect against in the future,” Bailey said. He and state Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena hope to come up with legislation that will force the creation of a regional crime lab, which he believes would increase accountability and help prevent future problems. “We passed the legislation to require accreditation for crime labs,” Bailey said. “But I’m still very concerned about it, and I think we are going to have to look at a regional lab that is independent of local law enforcement agencies.”

Bailey voiced his concerns after the most recent case of apparent wrongful prosecution was made public. He said there now is ample evidence that people were wrongly accused and wrongly convicted as a result of testimony from crime lab personnel.

In the most recent case George Rodriguez was convicted of sexual assault of a teenage girl in 1987, and has spent the last 17 years of his life locked up for a crime he did not commit.

The victim was on the street when she was abducted by two men who drove her to a house. The two assailants took the victim inside the house, passing a third man who was watching television, and into a bedroom where they both raped her. Afterward, the two men took her back in the car and dropped her off on a road.

Initially, the victim told the police that one of the men called the other man George, but that she thought it was a fake name. The victim gave police a detailed description of the house and described the route that the perpetrators drove to get to it.

Based on this information, a police officer from the community believed he recognized the house as belonging to two brothers, Manuel and Uvaldo Beltran. Since the name George was used, and the same officer knew that Manuel Beltran hung out with George Rodriguez in the past, George Rodriguez became a suspect.

Rodriguez’s picture was shown to the victim in a photo array and she identified him as one of the assailants. The victim’s friend, who was with her when she was abducted, also identified George as a suspect, though he could not later identify him from a line up.

George Rodriguez insisted that he was at work when the crime was committed, and the police obtained these records, indicating that he was in fact working during the time of the crime.

The police searched the Beltran’s house and took the Beltran brothers into custody. Uvaldo Beltran stated that his brother, Manuel, and another man raped the girl in the bedroom while he was watching television. Manuel Beltran confessed to committing the crime, along with friend Isidro Yanez. Police determined that the car used in the attack belonged to Isidro Yanez and that Yanez had been named a suspect in an identical abduction-rape in the area.

The police asked both Rodriguez and Yanez to participate in a line up in which the victim selected Rodriguez. In a photo array, the victim identified Rodriguez as the assailant and Yanez as someone who resembled the assailant. The Houston police crime lab later reported that a hair form the victim’s underwear was microscopically consistent with Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, the Houston Police Department was investigating another case involving Yanez, in which he allegedly sexually assaulted an undocumented alien who was working for his mother as a maid. His mother stated that “her son is mentally ill and needs to be arrested before he hurts someone else.” Yanez eventually pled guilty and was convicted of attempted sexual assault.

At Rodriguez’ trial, his alibi was rendered useless in the face of the HPD crime lab’s “scientific evidence” that “showed beyond a doubt” that Yanez did not commit the crime. Rodriguez, on the other hand, could not be excluded as a contributor and eventually was convicted of sexual assault.

Post-conviction DNA testing has recently demonstrated that the hair from the victim’s underwear that was used during the trial did not belong to Rodriguez. Further testing has shown that this hair actually belongs to Isidro Yanez.

Legislation authored by state Rep. Kevin Bailey and passed into law last year requires that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish an accreditation process for crime laboratories, including DNA laboratories, and other entities conducting forensic analyses of physical evidence for use in criminal proceedings. Physical evidence subjected to forensic analysis and testimony regarding evidence will not be admissible in a criminal court if, at the time of analysis the crime laboratory is not accredited by DPS.

Bailey went on to say, “This is about justice. And we need to know that everyone is treated fairly in our criminal justice system, that evidence is analyzed correctly, and that an analyst never again takes a witness stand in a criminal trail claiming to be an expert when they are not or misrepresent their findings.”