Sat Jul 17, 2010 17:40

Thursday, December 22, 2005
Moments before taking the stand to testify in a 1989 capital murder trial,
Houston crime-lab analyst James Bolding still was testing blood evidence —
not in the controlled conditions of a laboratory but in the courtroom itself.
Experts who reviewed trial transcripts from the case of Preston Hughes III,
who was sentenced to death and is awaiting execution, found Bolding's
actions troubling and emblematic of a pattern of problems in the Houston
Police Department crime lab's serology division. "It is ridiculous," said Keith
Inman, a California-based scientist with expertise in serology — the science
of typing body fluids — which was a precursor of DNA testing. "A lab is a lab,
and a courtroom is a courtroom, and they are not interchangeable. The
willingness to do this raises questions about standards at HPD."
A panel of scientists who reviewed HPD analysts' testimony about serology
tests in that case and 12 others, culled from a sampling of more than 100
examined by the Houston Chronicle, found problems in more than half of
the cases that mirror some found in the crime lab's troubled DNA division.
Analysts overstated the strength of evidence in some cases, offered
misleading statistics to juries and displayed a poor command of the
principles of serology, said the experts, who reviewed the testimony at the
request of the Chronicle. "They certainly were undertrained,
undereducated and did not have a very sophisticated understanding of how
to make sure results got expressed correctly," said Norah Rudin, an
independent forensic consultant. "The potential for a miscarriage of justice
is huge."
Concern within HPD: At least one of HPD's own serologists voiced concerns to
her superiors about ineffective management, lack of training and the poor
quality of HPD's serology work years before problems were exposed publicly,
according to a review of hundreds of personnel records. Several scientists from
the serology division went on to fill the ranks of the crime lab's now-infamous
DNA division after HPD began using that science in 1989. The DNA division was
shuttered three years ago, amid questions about the quality of its work. Its
closure prompted scrutiny that has revealed a sweeping forensics scandal.
Since then, flawed work has been uncovered in four other disciplines —
ballistics, toxicology, controlled substances (drugs) and serology — casting
doubt on thousands of cases and leading to the release of two men from
prison thus far. Although serology was not used in every homicide and rape
investigation prior to the advent of DNA testing, during the four-year period
from 1985 through 1988, according to its own crime statistics, HPD
investigated 1,630 homicides and more than 5,200 sexual assaults.
The independent investigator hired this year to conduct a comprehensive probe
of the crime lab is devoting a significant portion of an ongoing case review to
analyses from the serology division, whose faulty work contributed to the
conviction of George Rodriguez. Rodriguez was released from prison last year
after serving 17 years for a rape that DNA tests indicated he did not
commit. The investigator, former U.S. Justice Department Inspector General
Michael Bromwich, is expected to release his team's preliminary findings before
the end of the year.
In the Hughes case, Bolding performed tests to determine whether there
was blood on a knife and shoe from the murders of La Shandra Rena
Charles, 15, and 3-year-old Marcell Lee Taylor. He tested the items in front
of the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney in a Harris County courtroom
just before he was to testify. Bolding apparently was unable to perform the
tests earlier, according to testimony. The lack of quality control concerned
state District Judge George Godwin. "I find this cavalier attitude and
lackadaisical attitude of doing tests right while we've got jury waiting to
come in and hear testimony unacceptable," said Godwin, who nonetheless
allowed the tests into evidence over defense objections.
Experts who reviewed Bolding's testimony questioned why he agreed to
perform analyses outside a lab. "He was an experienced analyst who should
have known better," Rudin said. Bolding, who retired from HPD in 2003 to
avoid being fired, did not return phone calls for comment.
Statistics skewed: Experts also questioned testimony about tests during the
1988 trial of Charles Lee Hawkins, accused in the rape of a deaf woman at a
Houston motel. They concluded that Bolding's testimony overstated the
probability that evidence from the crime came from Hawkins. Bolding, who at
the time of the trial supervised the serology section, told jurors about tests on
blood and semen samples from the crime scene and a rape kit. Using basic
blood typing, he compared types for the victim and Hawkins with the evidence
and testified that Hawkins and fewer than 40,000 other people in Houston
could have contributed to the samples. So, it eliminated a large portion of the
population in Houston?" Assistant District Attorney Leslie Brock asked. "That is
correct," Bolding said.
But other scientists found that Bolding failed to include numerous other
possible contributors. "Bolding botched his stats in a ludicrous way," said
William Thompson, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, who was
central to uncovering problems in the Houston crime lab's DNA division three
years ago. "He is excluding large numbers of people who could have
contributed to that sample." By Thompson's calculations, more than 50 percent
of Houston's male population could have contributed to the sample. The case
against Hawkins also included an identification by the victim. He was convicted
and sentenced to life in prison.
Bolding's error, Rudin said, may have been caused by a problem prominent in
HPD's DNA cases: that analysts often gave juries numbers for the prevalence of
evidence itself and not for the statistical strength of a match between a
suspect and the evidence — an error that leads to exaggerations of the
evidence's strength. "This looks like the beginning of the same mistake, which
skews the conclusions," Rudin said. "The testimony makes the conclusion too
The overlapping problems in the DNA and serology divisions, experts said,
no doubt are related in part to their common personnel, several of whom
have been at HPD for more than 15 years. Among them: Bolding, who led the
DNA division when it was shut down; Joseph Chu, who received a written
reprimand for shoddy DNA work on several cases but remains at the lab; and
Christy Kim, who retired last year after surviving an attempt to fire her and
who collects more than $2,700 a month in a pension.
Bolding was the crime lab's only serologist when he assumed the job in
1982, after less than one year of training. "He had not yet received any
formal training in fundamental serological techniques, including (blood)
typing," Bromwich, the independent investigator, wrote in a June report.
"Mr. Bolding told us that he 'took books home and did the best he could.' "
Also among the scientists in the serology division was Holly Hammond, who left
HPD after three years. She alerted administrators to problems in the division as
early as 1986 in a letter she filed in response to her largely positive evaluation.
"It has been my observation and experience that training programs in this
laboratory are ineffective, inconsistent and inefficient at the practical level
and, in many cases, are simply nonexistent," she wrote. "Even requested
training, on relatively simple procedures, is often put off indefinitely by
supervisory personnel."
Hammond raised similar concerns in an August 1988 letter after that year's
evaluation, noting that she was writing not in response to her review but
because it was the only forum for expression. She repeated her concerns in her
Nov. 21, 1988, resignation letter. "Problems with equipment, personnel,
compensation and training are holding the laboratory in a position of
inadequacy compared to much of the rest of the forensic community," she
Misstating basic rules: Just before Hammond lodged her protest, HPD analyst
David Kaufman testified in the trial of Alphonse Norris Jr., who was convicted
in a 1985 assault. In describing ABO typing tests to the jury, Kaufman misstated
the most basic rules of determining how different blood types show up in such
tests. In ABO typing, some people with the different blood types — A, B, AB and
O — reveal themselves through the presence of different antigens in their body
fluids. If someone displays their blood type in their body fluids, they are called
secretors. A secretor with type-A blood will display A and H antigens while one
with type O will display only an H antigen. In his testimony, Kaufman confused
how different blood types show up in tests. "Either he is a very poor
communicator or he doesn't understand the technical issues involved," said
Inman, the California serology expert. "It's hard to know exactly what the
problem is, but clearly, his testimony is inaccurate." Kaufman could not be
located for comment.
The problems in the Norris case, Thompson said, can be found in others from
the serology section and suggest that problems in the Houston police crime lab
were pervasive across divisions. "It is now clear to me that problems in the DNA
division were just a continuation of earlier problems with serology," he said.
"These problems stem from a long history of low standards and the tolerance of
bad work. "The question is when we will stop finding more instances of errors,"
he said. "After seeing these cases, I am certain it won't be anytime soon

    • Cheers Petra i was just away to pos that u beat me to it lol
    • In other words, the test results are accurate but a couple of defense whores are whining about where he performed them. Do they claim that in doing so, it produced an inaccurate result? No. They... more
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            • You people are sick!Mal Reynolds, Fri Nov 30 16:11
              What's with your obsession with these thugs who rape and murder girls and women?
              • Re: You people are sick!SDL, Sat Dec 1 05:49
                Wow..a visitor from Charlene's board.... Why don't you go give Dudley Sharp a prostate massage? He'd love that.
              • "The United States' concept of justifiable homicide/Executions in criminal law stands on the dividing line between an excuse, justification and an exculpation. In other words, it takes a case that... more
                • source of quotationDudley Sharp, Sat Dec 1 05:44
                  I am not sure what you're saying, here. Is this quote, allegedly, from Judge Godwin?
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        • Wednesday, July 4, 2012 Independence Day 2012 June 25, 2012 Mr. Preston Hughes III Polunsky Unit #000939 3872 FM 350 South Livingston, Texas 77351 [My Address Redacted] Dear Mr. Allen Hello. I hope... more
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          • The Skeptical Juror and the Texas Condemned Man Posted: 08/14/2012 10:49 am He is an unlikely watchdog over the criminal justice system, a 64-year-old former aerospace engineer from Southern... more
            • Most Popular Comments -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- laynedish 9:21 PM on November 15, 2012 DNA testing was rejected. Document of police gaining... more
            • TX: Preston Hughes Executed for 1988 MurderPetra., Fri Nov 16 11:14
              Preston Hughes Executed for 1988 Murder by Maurice Chammah November 15, 2012 Enlargephoto by: Spencer Selvidge Preston Hughes interview two months before Hughes' first scheduled execution date, TDCJ... more
            • Friends and Activists: Fiction could not be stranger and more horrifying than this story. Please read and sign petition. Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement Save Preston Hughes III from Texas... more
              • TX: Hughes News: Your Turn to HelpPetra., Wed Nov 14 17:14
                PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW!! AND THE ABOLITION MOVEMENT ALSO THANKS WARD LARKIN FOR ALL HIS WORK! If you can go to Huntsville tomorrow, please do and join the Abolition Movement in protesting the legal... more
              • Killer's lawyer says police lied about teen's dying accusation By Allan Turner | November 12, 2012 Late on Sept. 26, 1988, La Shandra Charles, bleeding profusely from neck wounds in a west Houston... more
              • Preston HughesJJ Chauke, Sat Nov 10 00:54
                Hi All. I had been following the story of Mario Swain right until his last moments where he refused the 'last meal' and 'last words' due to the fear of what was about to be done onto him by the... more
                • Re: Preston Hughesxkittenx, Sun Nov 11 09:34
                  Hi, David Dow who is the head of the innocence project was working on the Mario Swain case it was sad.He is now working full time on Preston's case hes just emailed me i will keep you informed on... more
                • Preston's case will be featured on The Other Side of Justice tomorrow, Sept 20. Please tune in:... more
                  • TX: PRESTON HUGHES III: 15 OCT 2012Petra., Wed Oct 17 13:40
                    • TX: IN RE PRESTON HUGHES, IIIPetra., Sun Nov 11 09:42
             IN RE PRESTON HUGHES, III A mandamus petition was filed on October 15, 2012. The IN RE PRESTON HUGHES, III A mandamus petition was filed on October 15,... more
                    • Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Mon Sep 24 16:17
                      Step aside Patrick McCann at, you doesn't help our friend or are you dedicated to save a life? . Give him time... more
                      • TX: Motion to Replace - Preston HughesPetra., Sat Sep 29 07:36
               Last Tuesday, Preston Hughes mailed a motion to federal court requesting that his current attorney, Patrick McCann, be... more
                      • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Thu Sep 27 11:31
                        If so, someone should talk to Preston.
                        • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann xkittenx, Mon Oct 1 08:54
                          Hi Petra, I have been in touch with Preston he knows exactly whats going on.
                          • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Mon Oct 1 15:38
                            I see....for sure not D.Dow or McCann helped Preston to write the Pro Se Motion ..... On Monday, 24 September, the court ordered Patrick McCann to file a brief responding to Preston's motion that... more
                            • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann xkittenx, Tue Oct 2 09:37
                              The reason Preston wanted to change his lawyer is because he thinks he will get a new trial due to the illegal search of his apartment Petra which he wont and people have told him this but he wont... more
                              • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Tue Oct 2 13:44
                                Unfortunately you convince none with the talk, not Preston and no judge or court before 15 November. Any file to the courts ready to save a life? until October 5th he has time. Have a nice meeting... more
                                • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann xkittenx, Wed Oct 3 05:11
                                  ???. Someone has already met with him and you tell me exactly what good a petition does Petra? you give me one case where an inmate was saved due to a Petition?
                                  • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Wed Oct 3 12:08
                                    • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann xkittenx, Wed Oct 3 13:07
                                      Petra i know there are petitions about prestons case but my question to you was what good does signing a petition do? name one inmate that has left prison on the strength of a petition? see if... more
                                      • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann Petra., Wed Oct 3 14:37
                                        It takes one minute to support people fighting against the death penalty with a petition. And it is deadly only making phrases to support people on daeth row, a month and 12 days before an execution, ... more
                              • Monday, October 1, 2012 The Trial of Preston Hughes: Officer Vincent Cook Overview Houston Police Officer Vincent L. Cook ... more
                      • Re: Step aside Patrick McCann xkittenx, Thu Sep 27 05:50
                        Pat McCann is working along side David Dow on Prestons case both men are working closly together and are on top of things,I know as im in touch with both David Dow does not wish to change Prestons... more
                        • You want play with names in an innocent case, another one Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the lawsuit should be litigated, but is unlikely to stop any ... more
          • Preston's execution date has been set for November 15, 2012. Please spread the word about his case.
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