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November 10, 2016
The Houston Forensic Science Center disclosed on Wednesday an administrative error
in its Controlled Substances Section to the state’s forensic oversight board.
The error did not, and could not, have changed the judicial outcome in the two
impacted cases. However, because the final reports had to be amended, HFSC
submitted a disclosure to the Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC).
The error occurred after an analyst completed testing on two separate marijuana cases.
One case involved a cigar. The other case involved suspected drugs in a bag. The
analyst mistakenly reported the weight of each exhibit under the incident number of the
other case. The analyst followed standard operating procedures and had only one case
open at a time. The evidence was not switched between the cases, but the analyst
referred to the incorrect case folder while performing the evidence inventory, leading to
the administrative mistake.
Although weight helps determine the penalty in drug cases, both items were in the
weight range for the same penalty so the error did not affect the judicial outcome.
However, since the final report had already been issued to the submitting agency and
been made accessible to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office it needed to be
amended. The analyst reanalyzed the evidence and issued corrected reports.
HFSC has done a complete root-cause analysis of the incident, which found no
indication of professional negligence or misconduct.
HFSC has disclosed the incident to the TFSC as part of the standard reporting
procedures to the oversight agency. HFSC will release information on whether the
TFSC chooses to further investigate the incident. Should the TFSC decide to investigate,
the commission’s report will also be made public.
The TFSC’s next meetings are scheduled on February 9 and February 10.
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC currently has eight forensic sections.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/Public Information Officer


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