Houston crime lab tech lied & tampered with evidence

Many more details have emerged about Houston Crime Lab technician Peter Lentz, who resigned after an internal investigation uncovered evidence of improper procedures, lying and tampering with official records.  This undoubtedly hurts the credibility of the well oiled conviction factory in Harris County, of which the crime lab plays a fundamental role.

Lentz worked on over 185 cases, including 51 homicides.  Apparently, giving the prosecutors the evidence they wanted was his only priority forensic_scienceregardless of whether that meant putting innocent people behind bars and potentially sending them to their death.

Lentz worked for the lab from January 2012 until he resigned in March 2014. He said the department investigated Lentz and forwarded the findings to the district attorney’s office. He said the department would not release any further information about the allegations against Lentz or comment on the situation.

I harken back to my earlier post about HPD – where HPD failed to investigate 20,000 crimes with workable leads.  Harris County prosecutors have identified over two dozen cases now in jeopardy because of this one analyst.

In 2002, forensic testing at the lab was temporarily suspended because of a number of serious management, employee and structural problems, including a leaky roof that for years dripped water on stored evidence. There was also a backlog of untested rape kits, which at one point totaled 6,600, and persisted until August 2013 when the work was outsourced.

Obviously this is an extremely serious issue.  This calls into question not only the veracity of the evidence the lab submits as evidence, but raises bigger questions about the pervasive mismanagement of HPD as a whole.

Arrested for a Possession?

Arrested for a Drug Crime?

If you’ve been accused of any offense involving Marijuana (including possession of Marijuana) or any drug crime,  contact attorney Tristan LeGrande by calling 281-684-3500.

 

Supreme Court tightens law on “Straw Purchasers” of firearms

If you have purchased a firearm you may have seen the signs: “Don’t lie for the other guy” warning those purchasing firearms for someone else buying a firearm for someone that is not allowed to own one (Eg., Convicted Felons) you can end up in jail.  However, the supreme court attenuated the law a little in the case of Abramski v. United States.  What seems odd from this opinion is that The majority holds that even if both the “straw” purchaser and the intended recipient are eligible to purchase and possess a firearm, it still can be an illegal straw transaction.

In my opinion this decision ignores the purpose of the legislation – to prevent criminals from acquiring guns.  However, the court disagreed, cash-for-gunsseeming to say that the real purpose was to be able to account for who are the actual purchasers and holders of specific firearms.

In a 5-4 opinion, the court held that the law applied to a Virginia man who bought a gun with the intention of transferring it to his uncle in Pennsylvania — even though the uncle is not prohibited from owning firearms.

The debate centers around federal gun laws intended to prevent sham buyers from obtaining guns for the sole purpose of giving them to someone else. The laws were part of Congress’ effort to make sure firearms did not get into the hands of unlawful recipients.

Defendant Abramski bought a Glock 19 handgun in Virginia in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Pennsylvania. Abramski, a former police officer, assured the Virginia dealer he was the “actual buyer” of the weapon even though he had already offered to buy the gun for his uncle using his expired police identification to get a discount.

During the transaction, Abramski answered “yes” on a federal form asking “Are you the actual transferee buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you.”

Abramski purchased the gun three days after his uncle had written him a check for $400 with “Glock 19 handgun” written in the memo line.

Justice Kagan spoke for the majority, espousing that the federal government’s elaborate system of background checks and record-keeping requirements help law enforcement investigate crimes by tracing guns to their buyers. “Those provisions would mean little if a would-be gun buyer could evade them by simply getting another person to buy the gun and fill out the paperwork.”

In dissent, Justice Scalia said the language of the law does not support making it a crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another. Expectedly, Scalia was joined by the court’s other conservatives — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Abramski is being too honest where he doesn’t need to be, and too dishonest where it is most important to be honest!  How could this problem have been avoided?  He should have said he was buying the gun for another person that could have lawfully owned it…wait…would they have allowed that transaction to occur?

Humble man too drunk to hold head up for mugshot – this is news!?

Sean Carl Payne of Humble was arrested outside a bar in Humble early Thursday had so much to drink, police had to hold his head up to snap his mug shot.  Mr.  Payne was charged with public intoxication.  I found this story on CNN, a national news story about someone that was shit faced.  Why is this news?

I guess this just drew attention because the mugshot is kind of humorous.  Are we happy that we jail people for public intoxication?  Houston drunk_mugactually has begun a new program called the “Houston Sobering Center.”  Instead of being taken to jail for public intoxication, those picked up by police for being hammered out in public they can spend the night at the center rather than being hauled off to jail, overflowing our already crowded jails and tying up the courts.

The center has recently seen an uptick in visitors, meaning more Houston police officers are giving those stopped for public intoxication a chance to dry out for a few hours at the sobriety center instead of hauling them off to jail. It frees police up from filling out paperwork to get back to patrolling the streets.

Since this has been a successful program that eases the overcrowding problem at our jails, is more humane, and leaves the police on the streets to arrest real criminals, why are these programs not being used more widely?

Arrested For Public Intoxication?

Arrested for a DWI?

If you’ve been accused of a criminal offense involving alcohol such as public intoxication, or you have been accused of a DWI, contact attorney Tristan LeGrande by calling 281-684-3500.

General in the Aryan Brotherhood admits to racketeering

A probe that led to warrants and prosecutions of 74 members and associates  of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas also snagged one of its generals, a man know as “Big Terry” Blake.  Blake plead guilty Friday to a massive racketeering conspiracy.

Blake, 57, told U.S. District Judge Sim Lake that he’d been close to the gang for most of his adult life, and was made a “full brother” in 1991.Aryan-Brotherhood

The Aryan Bortherhood Gang was born in the prison system of Texas in the 1980’s and still has a stronghold in prisons statewide today.

The race-based syndicate has a reach that extends from penitentiaries into the streets. Members have been imprisoned for crimes including arson, drug dealing, kidnapping, murder and an incident in which a finger was sliced from a corpse south of San Antonio as a trophy, according to court papers and testimony.

Its good to see that the US Attorneys office is spending some of its time going after violent criminal organizations.  These organizations take advantage in large part of the weaknesses in our justice system, particularly the illicit drug market.  BY keeping drugs illegal we create a black market for these organizations to use to generate revenue, fueling their other more violent crimes.