Mayor Parker today announced a $3 million settlement of litigation between the City of Houston and George Rodriguez, who spent over 17 years behind bars for a rape and kidnapping he did not commit.
“On behalf of the citizens of Houston, I want to apologize to you,” said Mayor Parker to Mr. Rodriguez. “You were an innocent victim of a faulty system and I am sincerely sorry for the injustice you suffered. There is no amount of money that can make up for the years of your life that have been lost to this ordeal. But, hopefully, this settlement will somehow help in moving forward with the rest of your life.”
Rodriguez was convicted in 1987 based on testimony from the former chief serologist at the City of Houston Crime Lab. He was exonerated and released from prison in 2004 after a review confirmed the serology testing had been misinterpreted – the crime lab had incorrectly excluded a key suspect. Rodriguez brought suit against the City and others for constitutional violations sustained in connection with the conviction.
This case and other situations involving faulty analysis served as catalysts for the changes underway regarding the city crime lab. Earlier this year, City Council approved creation of the Houston Forensic Science LGC, Inc., which will handle all forensic operations formerly performed by HPD. The LGC Board of Directors has been holding organizational meetings and consulting on best practices from around the county. Its job will be to set policy, safeguard the integrity of crime lab operations and balance the public interests with the rights of accused persons.
“My goal is independence – a crime lab independent of police, prosecutors and political influence,” said Parker. “We are well on our way toward a system that is arms length from the police officers who make the arrests and from those responsible for prosecuting the accused.”