HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The Harris County District Attorney's Office is facing new criticism over the Precinct Four evidence destruction scandal.
"We have an enormous civil rights violation that may have occurred, that's why we need an independent prosecutor," said Kim Ogg at a news conference on Thursday. Ogg, who is currently campaigning for District Attorney against Devon Anderson, was referring to the evidence destruction case. Her criticism related to what she calls a lack of communication by Anderson to the trial lawyers involved in cases that may have been impacted by the evidence destruction.
Anderson explained last week that "in February of this year, an administrative assistant in our grand jury division discovered that evidence in three Precinct 4 cases had been destroyed prior to testing and without a valid destruction order." She also said that those cases were dismissed, but that later in the month, more evidence destruction was discovered.
Anderson says an investigation was launched on Feb. 29 by the Public Integrity Division.
As the district attorney's office learned of more cases and began investigating, Ogg says Anderson failed in a big way, explaining, "Immediately, if I was DA, I would have notified the defense bar and the prosecutors by posting a notice on the District Attorney's website that simply alerted them of potential problems with Precinct 4 cases."
The reason, says Ogg, is that the Brady Ruling and Michael Morton Act require prosecution to alert defense lawyers of any information favorable to the accused, which would include the destruction of evidence.
Ogg also contends that Anderson's lack of communication may have led cases to continue with inaccurate or incomplete information.
"For every person that was convicted where evidence had already been destroyed, they're entitled, in all likelihood, to a new trial," says Ogg, noting that retrials will likely be costly for both the defendants and the county.
At least 142 cases are already believed to have been impacted by the evidence destruction, according to statements from Anderson's office.
In response to Ogg, Anderson issued the following statement:
I have spoken at length with the media on this situation. I have given them all the details, all the facts. If there are any questions on specifics I am happy to answer those, but Kim Ogg¹s attempt to politicize this and make it a DA campaign race issue is desperate.
The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association and several other groups are also calling for independent investigations into the entire Precinct 4 scandal.