Latest Texas Forensic Flap Shows Major Gaps in Oversight of Scientific Evidence

Texas has seen more than its share of controversy surrounding forensic science in recent months.

Most recently, the Houston Chronicle reported that an audit of the Houston Crime Lab’s fingerprint division identified problems in more than half of the 548 cases selected for review.  The problems discovered were serious enough to lead the authorities to require that more than 4000 violent crime cases from the past six years be reanalyzed—a process that no doubt will be very costly for the city of Houston. According to the Chronicle, the Latent Prints Comparison Unit suffers from “significant deficiencies with staffing, a lack of proper supervisory review, inadequate quality control, technical competence inconsistent with industry standards, insufficient training and inadequate standard operating procedures.”  The Houston Police have confirmed that a criminal investigation into misconduct by at least one employee of the fingerprint unit has been opened.  In addition to the shoddy work that was done, the unit faces a backlog of some 6000 cases. 

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We Are Willing To Go To Any Means Necessary

On Wednesday I wrote a piece on Huffington Post and another at Open Left talking about the centrality of fixing the foreclosure crisis to any recovery from the economic meltdown. Since the toxic assets at the center of the meltdown are based on mortgages that are entering foreclosure at a rate of one every 13 seconds, we have to address foreclosure as a part of getting America back on its feet.

The Homeowner Affordability and Stabilization Plan (HASP), announced in Phoenix on Wednesday by President Obama, which will help up to an estimated 9 million families, is a good first step - and the first serious effort by the Federal government to confront the challenge. But just because there was an announcement does not lessen the urgency of the problem. We are still in a situation where four families every minute enter the foreclosure process. We believe there must be a moratorium on foreclosures until HASP is fully implemented.

So yesterday we at ACORN launched the Home Defenders campaign in seven cities - a campaign to force the question of moratoriums and to press the urgency of this crisis into the consciousness of elected officials on the state and national levels. This is a campaign of refusal and resistance, refusal by distressed homeowners to cooperate with the foreclosure process and resistance to attempts to evict them from their homes. And in some cases it is a campaign of getting people back into their homes.

I wanted to give everyone a report-back from our activities yesterday, which you can find in the extended entry.

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My Excellent Texas Adventure

HELPING HILLARY IN HOUSTON

My trip to Houston was fast, furious and fun.  But more importantly, it was successful.

I had no idea what to expect since I've never volunteered to travel for a campaign before.  But my first good "omen" was on the plane ride from San Diego to Houston where I sat with an older couple from Minnesota. They asked why I was heading to Houston and after I told them about my undying love for Hillary Clinton - they raised their eyebrows and told me "We love her too!". We talked for the whole 3 1/2 hours to Houston about Hillary, the Clintons, and the democratic party.  My first good "omen" that maybe, just maybe things will turn around for Hillary in Texas.

I met my roommate, Jessica, a 23 year old student from SDSU around 1am on Saturday morning, March 1st at our Marriott hotel. She flew in from San Diego, and like me, had the same level of enthusiasm and hope that our being here over the next few days might make a difference and turn things around for our candidate. After 11 straight losses, and polls showing Obama ahead by a couple points, was this even possible?

We talked about that - could Hillary really come back again?

A few hours later, our alarm clock went off and the 2 of us headed downtown Houston for the annual Rodeo Parade. We found the area where all the Hillary supporters were - hard to miss with their large signs, hats, buttons and T-Shirts.  As we screamed out "Hil-A-Ree" every time the parade marched by in hopes of the cameras catching a glimpse of our signs and enthusiasm, our group seemed to be growing by the minute.

My 2nd good omen was when I took a walk down the parade route and did not see any Obama signs or supporters anywhere.....hmmmm.....

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Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

Cross posted at www.BurntOrangeReport.comand www.StopCornyn.com

Not often you watch a Saturday, off-cycle runoff with anticipation.  This past weekend, Texas bloggers watched intently as the Houston City Council At-Large results came in.

Houston Mayor Bill White has been long rumored to be eyeing a statewide race in 2010, and growing the Democratic base and brand in his own backyard is an important part of preparing for such a run.

Clearly Melissa Noriega, State Rep. and decorated war hero Rick Noriega's wife, was interested in her own race against Republican Roy Morales.  Would she be able to win a race so few thought she should run in? A loss surely ended any speculation that her husband could run for statewide office, while a victory would fuel the speculation.

As Saturday's numbers rolled in (slowly but surely) Noriega won handily.  She beat Morales by over 11 points and now all eyes turned toward the future. Harris County is home to 1,782,013 voters spread throughout 875 precincts. Texas only has 12,357,887 registered voters in 254 counties or 8,306 precincts.  What happens in Houston is a gage of 14% of the Texas electorate.


During the last presidential election an impressive 1,067,968 people voted in Harris County -- 55% turnout of registered voters at the time.

Not only does extending our bench to 8 out of 14 city council members in Houston matter, but Melissa Noriega winning a citywide election in such a crucial state will possibly influence both the primary and general election for another Noriega.

The news gets better in Houston. Houston City Council is now at 8 to 6 majority for Democrats, but if you include influential and ambitious Mayor Bill White and Controller Annise Parker, that means Democrats hold 10 of 16 regionally and citywide elected officials.

Now that we are done with the city elections, we are staring directly at 2008, and Houston has changed the picture.

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First Things First

The Texas netroots (aka Texroots) is bubbling over with excitement about State Rep. Rick Noriega as the best challenger to take out John Cornyn next year, but first we need to help his wife win a city council seat in Houston against a truly odious creep. Texas Nate

I've been talking up my friend State Rep. Rick Noriega as the person who's going to beat John Cornyn in 2008. But first things first, we've got another Noriega to get elected first, Rick's wife Melissa. She ably took his place in the Legislature when he served our country in Afghanistan in 2005 and now she's running for Houston City Council.


Even if you don't live in Houston, this race matters.

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Diaries

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