Judge de­lays rape trial to let de­fense ex­plore whether al­leged DNA lab prob­lems would af­fect case

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO &STATE - By Steven Krey­tak skrey­tak@states­man.com; 912-2946

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.

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