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Texas Supreme Court: Thousands of drug convictions must be tossed out

Friday, June 07, 2013

The highest court in Texas has ruled that thousands of drug convictions across the state must be thrown out.

We are talking about 5,000 drug cases across the state, including the 450 people who have been convicted on drug charges in Harris County. Four of them are in prison right now.

But now the county's public defender says all these convictions may be thrown out.

"What the court said was we can't trust those results anymore," Harris County Public Defender Alex Bunin said.

It all started last year. A state crime lab examiner was fired when investigators found repeated mistakes in how he was analyzing drug evidence. The examiner had worked on thousands of cases between 2006 and 2012.

Now, a judge has ruled that anybody who has been convicted based on the now-suspect evidence has a right to a new trial, or maybe even a dismissal.

The district attorney's office will be looking at each conviction individually.

"If their cases were tested by this chemist, and that's the sole evidence against them, then they're in the position to seek relief," Bunin said.

The public defender's office has only managed to reach 60 of the 450 people in question.

Criminal defense attorney Jay Cohen is urging anybody arrested on drug charges in Harris County between 2006 and 2012 to contact their attorneys because they may be off the hook.

"The state has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. And with rogue lab analysts who aren't doing the work they're supposed to do, the state can't prove it," Cohen said.

"Even people who had been convicted of misdemeanors, even if they didn't spend any time in jail, the fact that they have that conviction follows them through their life," Bunin said.

The district attorney says it could take months to go through each one of those convictions.

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