Naked City

More Snafus at Houston Lab

The biological material has hit the fan again at the now-infamous Houston Police Department crime lab. In a report filed in Harris Co. district court on Aug. 6, six independent forensic scientists allege that James Bolding, former head of the lab's DNA and serology units, offered either inept or false testimony to jurors in a kidnapping and rape case, which lead to the wrongful conviction of George Rodriguez. Rodriguez was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1987 kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl. Bolding testified at Rodriguez's trial that tests on a pubic hair excluded one suspect and pointed at Rodriguez as the guilty party. However, recent DNA testing, conducted by the Innocence Project, has excluded Rodriguez and points to the other former suspect, Isidro Yanez, as the guilty party.

In an affidavit, the independent forensic scientists question whether additional cases handled by Bolding and chemist Christi Kim, who also testified at the Rodriguez trial, might also have been tainted. "It is reasonable to assume that [Bolding and Kim] issued many other reports and/or gave testimony in many other cases during their tenure," the affidavit reads, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. "A serious danger exists that they may have offered similarly false and scientifically unsound testimony/reports in these other cases."

Bolding resigned from the lab in 2003, reportedly to avoid being fired during the scandal that shut the lab's doors in late 2002 after a state audit found problems with evidence handling and the misinterpretation of data. That scandal led to the eventual release of Josiah Sutton, who spent four years in prison for a rape he did not commit; further retesting in the wake of that first scandal has raised concerns in about 40 additional cases. The independent scientists weighing in on the Rodriguez case have suggested the lab conduct a thorough independent audit. Observers have also called for Harris Co. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal and his office to recuse themselves from investigations of the crime lab – whose findings have helped Harris Co. prosecutors send hundreds of defendants to prison.

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Houston Police, crime lab, George Rodriguez, Innocence Project, James Bolding, Christi Kim, Josiah Sutton

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