On paper, it seems to be a simple process: Put pieces of evidence in individual boxes or bags, label them, store them in a dry place and keep meticulous records so detectives, prosecutors and defense attorneys can easily retrieve evidence needed for further examination or trial.
Yet two separate Harris County police agencies have allowed thousands of pieces of evidence to become contaminated or destroyed in recent months, affecting an untold number of ongoing criminal cases and threatening the validity of past convictions. Here's a not-at-all-exhaustive list of our coverage so far.
Precinct 4 Deputy Accidentally Tossed Untold Amount of Drug Evidence
Thanks to the error of one Harris County Precinct 4 deputy, an untold number of accused drug offenders might be off the hook.
How Did a Precinct 4 Deputy Get Away With Destroying Evidence for Nine Years?
The Harris County Precinct 4 deputy who was fired after destroying evidence in hundreds of pending criminal cases this year has been wrongfully tossing evidence without following department protocol since 2007, Constable Mark Herman announced Tuesday.
Precinct 4 Destroyed Evidence Leads to 142 Dismissed Cases (So Far)
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson laid bare the havoc a missing evidence scandal in Precinct 4 has caused within her office: 142 dismissed criminal cases to date, a list that grows longer each week.
Precinct 4 Internal Report Suggests a Far Larger Evidence Scandal
The corporal who was fired for wrongfully destroying thousands of pounds of evidence sat at the same tiny desk that had been in the Harris County Precinct 4 property room for 20 years. An old prisoner cell that had been converted to a gun storage room was full of rifles and shotguns stacked haphazardly on top of each other, and live ammunition was tucked away in disorganized boxes shared with handguns. Boxes marked “drugs” were stacked eight feet high, blocking the passageway down the room’s back aisles.
Sprinkler Malfunction Soaks Evidence in Houston Police Property Room
Harris County police agencies apparently just can't get enough of those property-room screw-ups lately. The Houston Police Department announced on Wednesday that a sprinkler "malfunctioned" — in the property room freezer. And so now, the department, with help from the Houston Forensic Science Center, has to go through all the boxes and envelopes of evidence in that confined area to assess the damage.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.