Judge delays rape trial to let defense explore whether alleged DNA lab problems would affect case
A judge in Travis County on Tuesday delayed an aggravated sexual assault trial that had been set for next week after a defense lawyer successfully argued that he needs more time — and the help of a court-appointed expert — to review whether recently revealed issues with the Austin police DNA lab would affect the case.
Defense attorney Stephen Orr has requested access to voluminous records — including past reviews, incidents of contamination and other documents — from the police DNA lab. His request, approved by state District Judge Bob Perkins, comes after prosecutors in recent weeks revealed allegations of problems at the lab that surfaced in a February memorandum from former lab scientist Cecily Hamilton and in a follow-up investigation.
Hamilton wrote that a DNA analyst received assistance in taking a competency exam, that the lab’s training is lax and that the management is poor.
Without being specific, others at the lab indicated during the investigation that there have been multiple incidents of contamination at the lab in recent years, according to the documents.
Orr made the request in the case of Randall Scott Jordan, a former convict who is accused of beating and raping a woman at a South Congress Avenue motel in July 2008.
At a hearing before Perkins on Tuesday, prosecutor Mona Shea said that the DNA tests are important to the case and would support the woman’s allegation that during the attack she was sexually assaulted with a wine bottle.
Shea said Hamilton, who has resigned from the department, conducted the original DNA tests in the case. She said the samples were recently retested by lab su- pervisor Cassie Carradine, who agreed with Hamilton’s conclusions.
Perkins told Orr he could retain a DNA expert to review the case at taxpayer expense. The specific expert has not been named but would come from Orchid Cellmark, a private laboratory. Perkins did not set a new trial date and asked lawyers to return in two weeks to give him a status update.
Randall Scott Jordan is accused of beating, raping woman in 2008.