On a 15-2 vote, Houston City Council today approved Mayor Annise Parker’s plan to create the Forensic Science Local Government Corporation (LGC) and confirmed the nine-member board of directors to oversee the LGC.
“We want an independent crime lab operation that is held to the highest standards of science, run effectively and efficiently and not swayed by politics or the desires of police and prosecutors,” said Mayor Parker. “It is just as evil to allow someone who has committed a heinous crime to go free as it is to incorrectly convict someone who is innocent. Today’s vote was an important and necessary step in my goal of restoring faith in our forensic activities,”
Mayor Parker’s plan is consistent with the principles of a landmark 2009 study by the National Academy of Science. Her idea was applauded in a recent article in the National Law Journal:
“One city that’s on the right track is Houston, where Mayor Annise Parker has called for an independent crime lab, which would report to an independent board, rather than the police or prosecutor’s office. Parker has the right idea — first, and foremost, because it matters who’s boss. If you work for the police, you tend to see things from that point of view. Same goes for the prosecution. Usually, it is not a conscious thing. You want to be fair and unbiased, and you think you are. But when the boss hopes you’ll find evidence to support her point of view, your mistakes may lean in that direction.”
The LGC’s board of directors will set policy for the forensics science center, balance the interests of the public and law enforcement with the rights of the accused and help ensure integrity of operation and sound financial management. The board’s first tasks will include:
Scheduling an organizational meeting
Learning about open meetings and public information laws
Developing goals for the next 60 days and determining tentative schedule for future meetings.
Meeting with the current crime lab director and touring the lab
The chair of the nine-member board is District 137 State Representative Scott Hochberg. The rest of the panel is comprised of the following:
Enrique V. Barrera, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Rice University
Willie E. B. Blackmon, retired, Judge Advocate, United States Air Force
Nicole B. Ca′sarez, Professor, Communication Department, University of St. Thomas
Donna Fujimoto Cole, Founder, Cole Chemical and Distributing, Inc.
Art Contreras, retired United States Marshal, Southern District of Texas
Marcia Johnson, Professor, Thurgood Marshall School of Law
Catherine Lamboley, retired, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Shell Oil Company
Sandra Guerra Thompson, Professor, University of Houston Law Center
The plan approved by City Council today does not preclude future expansion of the LGC to accommodate Harris County’s participation. Mayor Parker says talks with the county continue.