The San Antonio Express-News, which supports the death penalty, recently called for a halt to executions in Texas because of concerns about the ongoing problems at the Houston Crime Lab. The Express-News stated:

This month, New Jersey lawmakers voted to halt executions while a task force reviews the fairness and costs of imposing the death penalty.

Texas should consider doing the same but for slightly different reasons.

The disturbing facts coming out of an independent investigation into cases handled by the Houston Police Department lab beg for a temporary suspension of executions, at least until all cases the lab handled are reviewed.

In a report issued this month, an independent investigator stated the Houston Police Department crime lab failed to report evidence that might have helped criminal defendants and found errors in almost one-third of the cases reviewed, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Among the cases in which the investigator found problems are three involving death row inmates. That is deeply disturbing.

Texas is one of 38 states with a death penalty. At least 13 states have appointed study commissions. Texas should do the same.

Texas needs to halt further use of the execution chamber until all the evidence used to condemn defendants, especially those from Harris County, is scientifically validated.

There are 410 prisoners on Texas’ death row, 143 of them from Harris County. Some of those cases go back to 1976 and were not part of the initial review by the independent investigator, which looked only at cases between 1987 and 2002.

The investigator has now extended his review to include cases going back to 1980.

The state has good reason to delay the 11 executions scheduled through April, including one set for today.

The integrity of the Texas criminal justice system, which is responsible for one-third of the executions in this country, is at stake.

We are not against the death penalty, but the state must be certain that innocent people are not executed.

(San Antonio Express-News, January 19, 2006). See Innocence and Editorials.