Report on Crime Lab Evidence Released: DPS Lab Tech Jonathan Salvador May Have Sent 1000s to Texas Prisons in Wrongful Convictions – and the CCA is Reversing The Convictions
Juries are known by criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors alike to consider forensic evidence as being irrefutable and some of the most respected evidence in a criminal trial.
Juries like lab stuff: it’s known as the “CSI effect” by some roaming around the courthouse, and it has nothing to do with the realities of what scientific evidence really provides. Maybe with the latest revelations by the Texas Rangers and the Texas Forensic Science Commission, public perception will change.
And if it does, then history may reward one single individual with credit for reversing the respect and reliance placed upon lab results in Texas Courtrooms. That man’s name is Jonathan Salvador, formerly employed as a DPS-Houston crime lab worker.
Texas Forensic Commission Report Released
Last week, the Texas Forensic Science Commission officially adopted a report compiled by TFSC and based in part upon similar investigations by both the Texas Rangers and the Office of the Inspector General. The report investigates crime lab results used as evidence is lots and lots of criminal trials. It’s big news: the official report determines that Jonathan Salvador’s failures as a crime lab technician puts literally 1000s of convictions into question.
That’s right. The official report finds that there are 1000s of men setting behind bars today who didn’t get a fair trial. Why not? They were convicted on crime lab evidence that came from Mr. Salvador’s work.
Crime Lab Results Only As Good as the Lab Tech – Bad, Bad Jonathan Salvador
What’s with Salvador’s lab results? Seems that the DPS Houston office had this guy doing work in their Department of Public Safety Crime Lab: he worked there for a long time and performed lots and lots of lab work destined for criminal trials.
By the time that Mr. Salvador was suspended from his job as a DPS forensic scientist in February 2012, he had worked on 4900 different drug cases in 30 different Texas counties.
Jonathan Salvador lost his job when it was discovered that he replaced the results of one test with another, unrelated lab test. That brings many to the question of what to do with those other 4899 cases that Salvador worked: what to do about them? Should any of them be trusted? Aren’t they all scientifically compromised?
Think about it. That’s a lot of lab tests before Salvador’s faking lab results in a controlled substance drug test was discovered. (Note: A Houston Grand Jury considered Salvador’s actions but didn’t indict him for any criminal charges.)
How could this happen? That’s not clear. The Report includes interviews with Salvador’s former lab buddies and these DPS lab employees reported that Mr. Salvador “… struggled with corrections and an overall understanding of the chemistry, especially in difficult cases.”
Court of Criminal Appeals Will Rule in Favor of Defendants in These Tainted Convictions
According to a representative of the Innocence Project of Texas in reporting to the TFSC, the answer to this problem regarding appeals of the other cases where Salvador was involved is to have the Court of Criminal Appeals apply its same opinion to every case that comes before it that involves Jonathan Salvador lab evidence.
The High Court is taking the practical approach of ruling in favor of these defendants as they bring their cases before the CCA.
Ten convictions have already been reversed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of crime lab results involving the now infamous DPS Houston crime lab worker, Jonathan Salvador.
As the Court of Criminal Appeals explained in its March 6, 2013, per curiam opinion in Ex Parte Junius Sereal (read the opinion here):
The DPS report shows that the lab technician who was solely responsible for testing the evidence in this case is the scientist found to have committed misconduct. While there is evidence remaining that is available to retest in this case, that evidence was in the custody of the lab technician in question. This Court believes his actions are not reliable therefore custody was compromised, resulting in a due process violation. Applicant is therefore entitled to relief.
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