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May 26, 2017
The state’s forensic oversight commission created a panel on Friday that will work with
the Houston Forensic Science Center to outline best practices for crime scene
investigation in Texas following HFSC’s self-disclosure of errors made in its crime scene
The Texas Forensic Science Commission (TFSC) panel will use as a basis for its study
HFSC’s disclosure regarding mistakes in one investigator’s work as well as the technical
review process that missed those issues.
“HFSC welcomes this opportunity to work with the commissioners to investigate the
problems in our Crime Scene Unit and implement changes that will prevent similar
errors going forward not only in HFSC but in other units across the state,” said Nicole
Casarez, chairwoman of HFSC’s Board of Directors.
HFSC found the mistakes during an audit of 88 cases worked by the investigator. HFSC
launched the audit after a new civilian supervisor found a few errors during routine
technical review of the investigator’s work.
The audit involved cases dating back to October 2015. HFSC identified problems in 65
different cases. All 65 had incomplete documentation. Thirty-two had additional
administrative errors and in eight instances evidence had been misplaced. The impacted
cases include 26 homicides and five officer-involved shootings. The district attorney has
been notified of all the incidents.
Due to these issues, HFSC amended 65 case reports. State statute requires forensic
agencies to disclose to the TFSC errors that require a report to be amended.
“Our goal in working with TFSC is not only to make our division better, but to also find
solutions that will help others in the state and the nation improve their own work,” said
Dr. Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and president.
The two investigators responsible for the errors are no longer on HFSC’s staff. HFSC
has already taken steps to prevent mistakes going forward, including hiring more than
six qualified, experienced investigators in the past year, among them two supervisors.
HFSC continues to recruit personnel for this unit and all of its crime scene investigators
will be civilian by years end.
HFSC is also in the midst of a second audit of 25 percent of each person’s work that had
been technically reviewed by the supervisor. This will provide a better sense of the
extent of the problem and allow HFSC to take any additional needed action.
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.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/PIO


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