Texas A&M helps fight Houston crime

By: David Norris Email
By: David Norris Email

Byran, Texas A Texas A&M professor has been chosen to help put the Houston crime lab back in order.

Dr. Clifford Spiegelman is a distinguished professor at the school. He's written papers that have changed the way investigators look at evidence. He's one of a nine-member team of experts picked by the Houston Forensic Science Local Government Corporation (LGC) to help clean up the crime lab.

The lab has seen plenty of controversy over the years with reports of tainted and mishandled evidence.

Spiegelman said they want to change the way things are done.

"Right now, the standard testimony is when there's a match, they testify that, to a practical certainty, this is the only weapon that could have fired the bullet," said Spiegelman. "The experiments don't support that. And what we're going to be looking at is error rates."

The group of experts includes a retired director of the DEA, the CEO of the National Forensic Science Technology Center and a Professor of Bioengineering.

Spiegelman said he's excited about his role with the team.

"Right now, they and everybody else are using machines to pick the most likely weapons that could have been associated with a crime, and then the humans do everything after that," said Spiegelman. "There's ways to combine them so they're not separate steps so they all work together seamlessly."

The Innocence Project is a group dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people. Sarah Chu is with the group, and she said this a very big step in the right direction.

"This will do so much to not only exonerate the innocent and identify true perpetrators," said Chu. "But by doing so with a strong scientific foundation, you'll enhance public safety in Houston."

Houston Mayor Annise Parker called the group an important milestone in the process of forming an independent forensic science center of the highest quality.

According to the City of Houston website, The Houston Forensic Science LGC was established by Mayor Annise Parker and the Houston City Council as an independent city-chartered organization to assume the operations of the current Houston Police Department Forensic Division.

The Technical Advisory Group will help the HFSLGC board establish, meet and maintain high standards of technical performance and accreditation, and will advise the board of new developments in rapidly changing fields in forensic science.


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