By JG Vibes
March 19, 2013
Last year there was a crime lab specialist in Massachusetts who admitted to tampering with tens of thousands of drug tests, creating false positives and putting countless human beings in cages.
Now a similar situation has been exposed in Texas, and this time thousands of cases can be overturned because of another drug lab specialist falsifying reports.
If this finding becomes official it could save a large number of nonviolent offenders from more than 10,000 years in prison.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday approved nine new habeas corpus petitions from defendants convicted of drug crimes after a Department of Public Safety crime lab worker in Houston was found last year to have falsified test results. That brings the total number of defendants with overturned convictions so far to 11, with many more to come. Those 11 people had been sentenced collectively to 90 years, including one 32-year sentence.
Though there may yet be more instances discovered where ex-lab employee Jonathon Salvador allegedly fabricated results, the habeas petitions granted so far have been in cases where the drug evidence had been destroyed post-conviction and so retesting is impossible. The general counsel at the Texas Forensic Science Commission has estimated evidence has been destroyed in 25-50% of the nearly 5,000 cases from 36 different counties that Mr. Salvador worked on during his time at DPS.
All the habeas writs granted so far have come from Galveston County but that’s only because District Attorney Jack Roady’s office has been especially diligent about identifying cases where no evidence exists and processing them as promptly as possible. But expect hundreds more people released based on successful writs from other Southeast Texas counties. From what Grits knows of the incident, if I were a betting man I’d put the over-under for how many cases will eventually be overturned at around 1,500. Indeed, that’s arguably a conservative estimate.
Extrapolating, the average sentence of the first 11 defendants freed based on this fiasco was just over 8 years. Granted, 11 is a small sample, but if that average holds up and Grits’ guesstimate of 1,500 affected defendants comes to fruition, that’d be 12,000 years worth of prison sentences overturned as a result of one, shoddy lab worker!”
None of these people belong in jail to begin with, at least not for drug crimes anyway. With so many of these cases popping up over the years it seems that this is a systematic problem that reaches far beyond “a few bad apples”.
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J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter-culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer, reporter for dev-test.intellihub.com and Executive Producer of the Bob Tuskin Radio Show. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com