GALVESTON — The Galveston County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed about 30 drug cases after the Texas Department of Public Safety detected errors by a former analyst at a Houston crime lab.
Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Jack Roady said there were concerns about the way the analyst handled evidence.
“I think we had over a thousand that resulted in a charge,” Roady said.
“We’re looking at the facts involved, seeing if the evidence submitted for testing is of sufficient integrity that it could be retested.”
A group of four attorneys is participating in the review of about 1,000 drug cases after the Texas Department of Public Safety detected the errors.
Defense attorney Greg Russell said he is working, along with attorneys Mark Stevens, Lynette Briggs and Mark Diaz, on drug cases affected by work performed by Jonathan Salvador, formerly of the Department of Public Safety’s crime laboratory in Houston.
The department suspended Salvador in February after staff discovered an “issue” with his work. The department then notified prosecutors in more than 30 counties, providing them with a list of more than 4,900 drug cases that Salvador analyzed, said department spokesman Tom Vinger.
In May, a Harris County grand jury declined to indict Salvador, who had worked for the department for six years, Vinger said.
“Salvador resigned from DPS in August 2012 after the director made the decision to begin termination proceedings,” Vinger said.
Prosecutor Kevin Petroff, Felony Section chief for the district attorney’s office, said Wednesday the office has dismissed about 30 cases.
The office is doing a case-by-case review of everything the analyst touched, Petroff said.
“We prioritized them in terms of who may still be in custody, and the second priority was who may be on probation,” Petroff said. “I think we’re now in the third phase into disposed cases.”
The justice administration contracted with four defense attorneys to handle those cases, which are under review, Petroff said.
Petroff declined to discuss how the evidence was mishandled.
“I can’t talk about the particulars,” Petroff said. “I don’t think that’s public record, but I can tell you we lost faith in his analysis of controlled substances.”
Russell said he has 300 cases and filed paperwork for roughly 30 defendants.
“The first thing we have to do is locate the client,” Russell said.
Some went to prison, were released and have to be found, Russell said.
“It’s a total mess,” Russell said.
The Department of Public Safety completed its investigation into the incident and implemented more stringent quality control measures to help prevent similar issues in the future, Vinger said.
“We continue to provide assistance in cases worked by our former employee, including re-examining evidence,” Vinger said.