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June 24, 2015
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Public Information Officer
The Houston City Council confirmed on Wednesday Nicole Casarez as the new
chairwoman of the Houston Forensic Science Center Board of Directors effective July 1,
2015, after Scott Hochberg completes his three-year term as the board’s first chairman.
The Council has also appointed to the board Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in
prison for murders he didn’t commit. Mr. Graves, who was exonerated in 2010, spent
12 years on death row and had two execution dates. Ms. Casarez and her students spent
years investigating Mr. Graves’ case as part of an innocence investigations class. In
2006, Ms. Casarez joined his legal team.
Ms. Casarez and Mr. Graves serve on the nine-member board, which is charged with
overseeing HFSC, the independent forensic operation that took over on April 3, 2014
what were formerly the Houston Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit, Crime Lab and
parts of its Identification Division.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Anthony on the HFSC
board, where our goal is to serve justice by providing top quality forensic science,” Ms.
Casarez said.
Ms. Casarez has served on the board since the City Council created HFSC in 2012. She
brings rich legal experience to the table, including serving as the attorney who helped
Mr. Graves prove his innocence in the 1992 murder of six Burleson County residents.
Ms. Casarez is a professor at the University of St. Thomas, where she teaches mass
communications law, innocence investigations, news writing and reporting and other
related topics.
Mr. Graves has spent the years since he was freed from prison in 2010 speaking before
various entities and bodies about his experience. Mr. Graves’ experience is crucial to the
board and HFSC as they seek to forge a new national model for forensics: one that is
independent of law enforcement and prosecutors and is faithful only to the science.
Council also confirmed Janet Blancett, a senior health, safety, security and
environmental consultant with Shell, to the Board of Directors.
Sandra Guerra Thompson, a law professor at the University of Houston, has been
reappointed to a second three-year term. Ms. Thompson recently published a book
called Cops in Lab Coats that in part talks about the establishment of HFSC.
HFSC currently operates in eight forensic disciplines.
Further information regarding HFSC is available at
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