"The Harris County Precinct Four Constable's Office destroyed more than 20,000 pieces of evidence, forcing the District Attorney's office to dismiss nearly 150 pending criminal cases and potentially endangering more than 1,000 others, District Attorney Devon Anderson said Friday. "It will make me sick if we have to dismiss a violent case because of this. It will make me ill if we have to do that," a frustrated Anderson said in a midday news conference. "That's why we are asking the prosecutors to try to resurrect these cases as best they can." The revelations brought new light to a Precinct 4 evidence room scandal which developed after deputy constables destroyed the evidence from pending cases while trying to clean out the property room. In August, the DA's office said that it had dismissed at least 90 cases related to the evidence purge and was joining defense attorneys in seeking a new trial for a defendant who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in several Precinct 4 drug cases. "This is just a critical part of law enforcement, maintaining the evidence," Anderson said, explaining that she asked Constable Mark Herman to hire an independent auditor to examine his evidence room to try to ascertain the total number of affected cases after the department kept supplying the DA's office with different lists over (sic) of cases with destroyed evidence. The DA's Public Integrity Division has also been investigating to issue since February, she said, adding that criminal charges could be filed after its conclusion. Identifying the scope of the problem has been hampered because Precinct 4 has not been able to supply a complete list of pending cases in which the associated evidence had been destroyed, she said. "Over and over again, the Public Integrity Division asked Precinct Four for a complete list, but it was clear the lists were conflicting and incomplete," an exasperated Anderson said, calling Precinct 4's numbers "ever-changing."......... Herman said the evidence was destroyed in January as the constable's office tried to clean out its evidence room. In interviews, he said he first learned about the mass destruction of evidence in late March or early April, launched an internal affairs investigation, and fired the officer responsible. Herman said his staff also contacted District Attorney Devon Anderson's office about the problems. Burt Springer, attorney for the fired deputy constable - identified as Corp. Christopher T. Hess - told the Chronicle his client was being railroaded. "He was told to clean out the evidence room, because there was massive amounts of what I would call old and useless evidence there," Springer said, explaining that several other deputies had been involved and that Hess had been following orders from a superior who has since retired. "It needed to be cleaned out.""
There once was a precinct
Called 'Precinct Number Four'
Where more than 20,000 pieces of evidence
Walked out the door.
Which is another way of saying
What all the defendants had been praying
That their cases could not be tried in court
Of course exhibits can't walk
they were in, in fact, destroyed,
by several police constables
including one no longer employed.
But the constables have a defence
which their lawyers will spout
merely following their superior's orders
to clean the property room out.
Like any good lawyer
my judgment is postponed
some suspect the officers may not have been using their heads
however, since many exhibits were drugs
could the officers have merely been stoned?
It seems that we will never know
Because the paperwork is gone
And I therefore can't say anything more
about Precinct Number Four.
Except, Heaven help us all.
Harold Levy. Poet Emeritus of The Charles Smith Blog.