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EP Defense Attorney: Innocent People Could Be In Jail

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POSTED: Friday, July 8, 2011 - 4:40pm

UPDATED: Monday, July 11, 2011 - 2:19pm

EL PASO - A local defense attorney says innocent El Pasoans could be in jail. That's because major problems were found at the El Paso Police Department's Crime Lab, which is now on probation.

The mistakes were made recently in front of the board that accredits the lab, and include lab workers identifying a substance as cocaine when it was not.

"When there's mishandling of the evidence, when there's mislabeling of samples, when there's cross contamination, when there sloppy work, when there's poor deductive reasoning of the people who are trusted to handle the evidence, you are going to make mistakes and often serious ones," local Defense Attorney Mario Gonzalez said." When that happens innocent people will go to jail, lives will be destroyed and families will be taken apart. That is simply unacceptable."

The past six months of lab work is now being re-examined by an outside agency. Gonzales says all the evidence the lab has produced is now under question.

"I'm going to be going back very carefully and reviewing those cases, because I intend to challenge any evidence that has been handled through that office and through that lab," he said.

Even though there's no doubt lab workers messed up, District Attorney Jaime Esparza told us he will oppose any challenge that his office receives. Gonzalez isn't surprised.

"In this community the policy of that office, I think most lawyers will tell you, is win at all costs, and that's a shame," Gonzalez said.

The D.A. says the lab workers messed up on a test, not an actual case. That's why his office is confident no innocent people have been put in jail. Gonzales says those lab workers still handled real evidence.

"Look, if we can't trust our justice system to do the very best it can before taking away a person's liberty, who can we trust," Gonzalez asked.

The Texas Department of Public Safety will test all controlled substances the police department will use to prosecute cases until the probation status is lifted.

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I smell plea bargains or deals happening under the table.Any lawyer will try to get the crucial evidence of the seized substance dismissible. Due to lack of competency by EPPD lab there is no way to tell if it was an illegal drug that was confiscated at the time of arrest. If that happens walk free Mr. Drug man and then counter sue the city for wrongful incarceration...guilty or not guilty without evidence you can't prove anything.

Thanks for wasting more of my tax money EPPD for this blunder

As in my case, they could find baking soda, and if the cop says he found coke, the court will believe the cop. They will throw the book at you and threaten you with serious time for a guilty plea.

The EPPD and the district attourney a on a which hunt, if you cant afford a good Lawyer, they have you, Hell, Im facing felony charges for having a holster!

Dogs could crap cocaine too.

this is a very serious problem that not only occurs in El Paso labs but also everywhere else.The lab job itself is so monotnous and routine that lab personnel just get bored and uninterested in the job, just like many other jobs. Too bad this is one of those jobs that will ruin people's lives forever.

I don't buy it. When you mess things up, they get messed up. They don't end up matching exactly the suspect's DNA.

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