DNA issue forces Travis Co. to review hundreds of criminal cases

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

AUSTIN (KXAN/Nexstar) — Hundreds of criminal cases in Travis County will have to be reviewed again due to advancements made in DNA analysis. The new development shows crime labs across the country may have misinterpreted the results from DNA tests where DNA from multiple people might be present.

Forensic experts said scientists unintentionally misinterpreted the information when calculating probability in those cases. For example, what was once calculated as a one in a million chance comes down to one in 50 under the new testing standards.

On Wednesday, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office issued a statement in regards to how the new changes will impact their criminal cases.

“We are in the process of identifying all Travis County cases where these issues need to be addressed and providing notice to the interested parties. This is expected to be a large undertaking, requiring the addition of attorneys and paralegals to our Conviction Integrity Unit,” says District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office.

While the exact number of Travis County cases that will be reviewed is still unknown, county officials believe it will be in the hundreds. In the meantime, if there is a request for DNA to be reviewed in a case, the office will pull it for review.

The State’s Department Of Public Safety crime lab handled almost 25,000 cases with mixed DNA since 1999.

Former prosecutor turned defense attorney, Jackie Wood said it usually takes DPS a year to return DNA tests results and that’s with the current case load.

“It’s shocking, I mean I think this type of science has just been accepted for so long that I don’t think we knew to look in-depth enough,” Wood said.

Forensic experts said the results of retested data will greatly vary from case to cases, so each one will have to be retested and reevaluated separately.

With additional reporting from Rachel Glaser with Nexstar.


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