dna testing


District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announced last week that hundreds of criminal cases in Travis County could be subject to appeal because of a change in DNA standards. Initially estimated in the hundreds, the number of cases has begun to look much higher, with anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 cases that may be up for appeal.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay Monday afternoon in the case of Death Row inmate Rodney Reed. Reed was accused of the 1996 murder of Stacey Stites, and he was scheduled for execution on March 5. Since Reed's conviction, many have come out in support of his innocence and argued that, at the very least, further DNA testing is necessary to determine what happened.

Reed's attorney Bryce Benjet, who works with the Innocence Project, said in a statement:

Sarah Lim

You might be familiar with the case of Michael Morton. He's the Georgetown, Texas man who spent more than 20 years in prison for killing his wife. But he didn't do it. And it was DNA testing that eventually freed him.

Veronica Zaragovia

Update: A Texas Senate committee passed a bill last night that would require DNA testing of evidence in cases involving the death penalty.

The proposal will now go to the full senate for a vote.


Texas lawmakers say criminals are leaving more than fingerprints behind at crime scenes.

Today, representatives discussed a bill that would allow police across the state to take swabs of DNA from arrestees accused of a Class B misdemeanor or above. That genetic information would then be archived in a database and the swab would be destroyed.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Some officials in Texas – including Attorney General Greg Abbott – want to change how the state handles DNA evidence.

Abbott says he thinks testing on DNA evidence should happen before a death penalty case goes to trial.

"If you’re innocent, you’re going to find out that your exoneration will come sooner," Abbott said. "If you are guilty, justice will be more swift and more certain."

City of Austin

The backlog in forensic DNA evidence in Austin is so serious that local judges and the Travis County district attorney called the mayor and City Council members to discuss the situation. Then they followed up with letters.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to fund three new jobs for forensic chemists. But the embarrassment prompted council member Laura Morrison to promote a new idea in dealing with the city’s forensic needs.

Photo by Caleb Bryant MIller/Texas Tribune

Reversing its decade-long objection to testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner says could prove his innocence, the Texas Attorney General's office today filed an advisory with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seeking to test DNA in the case. 

"Upon further consideration, the State believes that the interest of justice would best be served by DNA testing the evidence requested by Skinner and by testing additional items identified by the state," lawyers for the state wrote in the advisory.

Skinner, now 50, was convicted in 1995 of the strangulation and beating death of his girlfriend Twila Busby and the stabbing deaths of her two adult sons on New Year’s Eve 1993 in Pampa. Skinner maintains he is innocent and was unconscious on the couch at the time of the killings, intoxicated from a mixture of vodka and codeine.