Houston P.D. Analyst Fired For Role in Faulty DNA Tests
Christy Kim, a 21-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, was suspended indefinitely Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported in Tuesday's online edition. The news comes nine months after Josiah Sutton's release from prison for a 1998 rape.
Kim testified during Sutton's trial that evidence from the crime scene was an exact match with Sutton's DNA. Sutton, who was 17 at the time he was convicted, was found guilty largely because of the weight of DNA evidence. He was released when new tests excluded him as a suspect.
Kim, who filed an appeal Tuesday, is the first from the department to be fired since DNA testing was suspended last year. Two high-ranking department supervisors resigned in June.
"It is about time," said William Thompson, a University of California-Irvine professor who helped expose some of the Houston lab's errors. "Slap-on-the-wrist suspensions are not going to solve problems at that lab."
Kim has said that poor management and departmental flaws, which left analysts unaware of the latest technology, are to blame for problems with testing.
"Ms. Kim is just a bench worker who could not have controlled any of the things she is charged with," her lawyer, Fred Keys, said in Tuesday's online edition of the Houston-Chronicle. "They were begging for help, and they didn't get it."
Keys could not be reached by The Associated Press Wednesday night.
Kim testified during Sutton's trial that evidence from the crime scene was an exact match with Sutton's DNA. Retests in March by a private lab discredited Kim's work.
A review of her analysis found that she could have excluded Sutton as a suspect at the time of the trial, Thompson said.
Sutton's case is among 400 that are being retested after the Houston Police Department closed the DNA division of its crime lab. Private labs already have analyzed evidence from about 120 cases and found problems of insufficient samples and statistical discrepancies in 23 cases. Sutton is the only defendant who has been released from prison.
Keys said Kim has grounds for appeal.
"The way DNA was analyzed at the time is different than the type of tests they use now, and the way she did those calculations, that was lab policy at the time," Keys said."It would be like trying to get a carpenter to build you a house and telling him he couldn't have a hammer or nails."
Keys said Kim was among six crime lab employees who had reported problems to former Police Chief C.O. Bradford in 1999.
"They took their concerns to the highest level," he said. "What more could they have done?"
Thompson, who has reviewed Kim's work, said DNA technology has improved since Sutton's case was analyzed, but said those changes don't account for the faulty results.
"It has nothing to do with the technology," he said. "She was simply using the wrong calculations, and it is apparent just from looking at her lab work, without even conducting new tests. To suggest that changes in technology account for her errors is simply wrong."
Bob Wicoff, the lawyer who handled Sutton's case when the DNA was retested, said firing Kim was necessary restore faith in the police department.
"I am sorry for Ms. Kim, but it is probably best that she not be around anymore," he said. "The way this whole mess should go is with a clean sweep."
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