Defense Lawyer's Work at Routine Hearing Exposes Major Probation Drug-Test Issues; Shake-Up Results

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A defense lawyer’s handling of what could have been a routine probation-revocation hearing resulted in a huge shake-up in Harris County, Texas, after witnesses responding to questions by Lisa Andrews reportedly revealed problem after problem with the probation office’s drug-testing program.

After the multiday hearing, which continued until Monday of this week, a state district court judge said she would not accept drug-test evidence from the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department in any case and called for the resignation of its director and other top officials, according to the Houston Chronicle and KPRC.

On Tuesday, District Attorney Pat Lykos announced in a written statement that prosecutors will not use such evidence in any case in Harris County said the moratorium will continue until “until I am assured of the accuracy of the department’s test results.”

Meanwhile, the administrative judge for all criminal courts in Harris County announced the same day that the county’s board of judges is reviewing transcripts and testimony from the hearing.

“It seemed there was no part of the process that was exempt from error after error after error,” Andrews told KPRC. The Chronicle says she called both technicians and top probation department officials as witnesses and obtained thousands of emails and other documents to prove at the three-day hearing that the drug-testing program was in chaos.

An earlier Houston Chronicle article provides additional details.

According to the news coverage, it is clear that some individuals have had their probation revoked and been sent back to jail because of faulty urinalysis tests—and that probation officials never told prosecutors or judges about errors even though they knew innocent people were being imprisoned as a result. The department, which tests some 25,000 samples monthly, reportedly has issues with old samples, missing links in the chain of custody and test results being reported for the wrong people.

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