Texas- Houston Crime Lab Court of Inquiry sign now

We are writing to express our concern with the problems in the Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory. We also are dismayed with the current lack of an independent examination of the practices of the HPD Crime Lab and its relationship with the Harris County District Attorneys Office. We advocate, therefore, the formation of a Court of Inquiry to further investigate these matters.

Recent articles in the Houston Chronicle have examined several cases that underscore apparent incompetence or malfeasance in the HPD Crime Lab and the need for a broader review of the entrenched problems. These cases have included problems with the DNA and ballistics sections of the lab. They include:

Nanon Williams: Mr. Williams was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death after an HPD ballistics examiner informed Mr. Williams jury that a bullet removed from the head of the victim was a .25 caliber bullet, matching a gun alleged to have been in Mr. Williams possession. The States star witness who was present at the crime scene carried a .22 caliber Derringer. Without test-firing the .22 caliber Derringer that had been carried by the States star witness against Mr. Williams, the examiner insisted that the bullet could not have been fired by the Derringer. When obligated to test-fire the Derringer during post-conviction review, the examiner, then conceded that the bullet came from the .22. Mr. Williams currently remains on death row.

Johnnie Bernal: Mr. Bernal was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death after an HPD ballistics examiner test-fired a gun alleged to have been in Mr. Bernals possession 25 times cleaning the barrel with solvent about halfway through the process before claiming that one of the fired rounds, which he could not later identify, matched the bullet taken from the victim. Numerous ballistics examiners have since decried such testing as not only lacking a scientific basis but, in fact, as a negligent destruction of evidence. Mr. Bernal currently remains on death row.

Josiah Sutton: Mr. Suttons case has been well documented in recent media reports. It is clear that Mr. Sutton spent numerous years incarcerated for a crime that he did not commit. However, even after the intense media scrutiny of Mr. Suttons case, the reasons for his erroneous conviction continue to come to light. A recent interview on Channel 11 News with the prosecutor who convicted Mr. Sutton suggests that the Harris County District Attorneys Office may well have known crucial facts, which could have precluded Mr. Suttons conviction.

We do not believe, of course, that these are the sole cases involving such mistakes, negligence or possible malfeasance. Without a proper and comprehensive investigation, we may never know how many more such cases exist.

It is our understanding that a special Grand Jury may be convened to investigate the Houston Police Departments past practices. We also understand that a special prosecutor would be appointed as one measure to avoid any conflict of interest in the Harris County District Attorneys Office. While we applaud an independent investigation into the practices of the Houston Police Department, we are writing to encourage such an undertaking through a Court of Inquiry rather than a special Grand Jury.

We feel as both taxpayers and residents of the Houston community that the special investigation into the Houston Police Department must take place in an open forum. We believe that the secrecy that surrounds a Grand Jury investigation would both preclude the community from understanding the inherent problems in the HPD and prevent the reconciliation needed to again restore our faith in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We have the right to know that we are not active participants in a system that incarcerates and take the lives of the innocent.

As members of the electorate, we have relied on assertions and promises of our elected leaders to ensure that the laws of our city and state are upheld. As members of jury pools, we have relied upon the testimony of officers and experts from the Houston Police Department in our jury deliberations; deliberations which are sometimes very difficult. As neighbors in our community, we have relied upon the Houston Police Department to make us feel safe in our houses by arresting the right people and collecting the proper evidence. Our faith in law enforcement and the criminal justice system has been shaken. We have an enormous stake in the ability to learn and understand what went wrong!

We believe, therefore, that a Court of Inquiry would be the most appropriate method to ensure both a proper and thorough investigation of the existing problems and ensure that we, as residents of the Houston area, have the ability to witness its progress. Only then can we again begin to have confidence in our criminal justice system and our elected officials.

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Latest Signatures

  • 03 January 2016489. Brenda Pittsb
    I support this petition
  • 12 December 2015488. Sarah S
    I support this petition
  • 12 December 2015487. Chiara S
    I support this petition
  • 30 November 2015486. Rajat S
    Give the guy his life back...Fix the system, and quit screwing him!
  • 29 November 2015485. Rachel S
    I support this petition
  • 28 November 2015484. Christalla R
    I support this petition
  • 17 November 2015483. Pam Albertsont
    I support this petition
  • 05 November 2015482. Isabella C
    I support this petition
  • 31 October 2015481. Brandon M
    For justice.
  • 31 October 2015480. Crama Y
    I support this petition
  • 30 October 2015479. Jennifer V
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  • 23 October 2015478. Leila D
    I support this petition
  • 03 October 2015477. Kathleen K
    "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" The inept, if not corrupt procedures exhibited by the Houston Crime lab need to be confronted by the legal system of the USA in a fair and impartial manner. Justice should be the right of every citizen.
  • 01 October 2015476. Emilie A
    I support this petition
  • 24 September 2015475. Chris P
    I support this petition
  • 15 September 2015474. Mary Emilys
    I support this petition
  • 12 September 2015473. Joe F
    I support this petition
  • 31 August 2015472. Aurora Mills
    FREE JOHNNIE BERNAL!!! INNOCENTS WILL BE SENT FREE!!!!!!!
  • 30 August 2015471. Natalia U
    I support this petition
  • 18 August 2015470. Daniel V
    Belgium
  • 07 August 2015469. Bonnie D
    A court of law should be about finding TRUTH, not about winning cases at any price. The Harris County DA's office has failed miserably in insuring truthfulness in expert testimony and the public must demand that those responsible are disciplined and those
  • 05 August 2015468. Anita B
    An injustice to one is an injustice to us all. We won't give up the fight!
  • 24 July 2015467. Kathleen C
    I support this petition
  • 14 July 2015466. Felicha W
    I don't know Josiah or any of the other young men that have had to undergo this vicious attack on their character, their name, their families, their past as well as their future. This attack, whether intentional or not is the type of attacks that have gon
  • 09 July 2015465. Vilma V
    I support this petition
  • 08 July 2015464. Dawn M
    They need a better Defense Attorney that will make sure they get a fair and lawful trial.
  • 23 June 2015463. Guillot F
    I support this petition

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Melisa GarzaBy:
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Petition target:
Texas State District Judges

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