Passing Grade for APD Crime Lab
Former DNA analyst Cecily Hamilton’s complaints included allegations of incompetence, poor training and employees cheating on internal competency tests.
At Austin Police Headquarters, Chief Art Acevedo read a list of findings from an audit by the Texas Rangers that, he said, cleared the crime lab.
Among other things the audit found that the lab was careful to remediate DNA contamination, had adequate training, and that there was no evidence of cheating on tests.
“Rangers and DPS DNA experts involved in this investigation have complete competence in the Austin police departments crime laboratory’s DNA section,” Acevedo told reporters at a news conference.
But just because the audit found no evidence of wrongdoing, the doubt in the quality of DNA evidence that the allegations stirred could continue to slow court cases already in Travis County’s criminal justice system.
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said some judges put their proceeding on hold while they waited for the results of the audit.
In other cases, Lehmberg told KUT News, “Some of the defense bar wanted an independent second evaluation of the evidence, and so those are coming in and we may yet have some challenges.”
She says two requests for retrials, one from former UT student Laura Hall, whose conviction for her role in the murder of a fellow student gained widespread media attention, have already been denied by Travis County judges.
While the District Attorney expects more challenges based on the crime lab allegations, she thinks the audit will convince many judges and defense attorneys that DNA evidence is properly handled and processed by the Austin Police.