30 T. Marshall L. Rev. 429 (2004-2005)
Crime Labs: Scape Goats for a Culture of Indifference

handle is hein.journals/thurlr30 and id is 435 raw text is: CRIME LABS: SCAPE GOATS FOR A
CULTURE OF INDIFFERENCE
BY NORMAN SILVERMAN*
The thing about forensic crime labs is that their paper can be objectively
graded. This fact makes these laboratories ideal scape goats for the ills of the
criminal justice system as a whole. This is not to say that they are not worthy
of criticism. Indeed, the more technology advances, the more the errors of the
past become clear. But in our haste to lay blame for wrongful convictions we
must not lose sight of one key fact: apathy flows downhill.
The last decade of Texas criminal jurisprudence is characterized by
decisions from the Court of Criminal Appeals and laws passed by the
legislature which serve to lessen the state's burden of proof and erode the
presumption of innocence. The end result, the close enough for government
work, attitude of apathy that seems to plague crime labs across the state can
be traced back to jurisprudence and law making that makes the current crime
lab crises not only possible, but entirely foreseeable.
This paper will examine in detail, one class of offense as a window into
the bigger problem of legislative and judicial apathy.
Drug offenses are the most commonly charged felony criminal offense
where scientific evidence is used by the state to meet its burden. It is not the
purpose of the paper to provide an exhaustive list of apathy-ridden-issues of
forensic science but rather to advance the thesis that the headwaters ofjudicial
apathy are found in Austin; in the legislature and in the Court of Criminal
Appeals. It is from these headwaters that the lacksadiscal attitude permeating
our state's crime labs flow.
MAKING THE PROSECUTORS' LIFE EASIER
Once upon a time, prosecutors were held to high standards by the courts
of this state. They were presumed to know the law and held accountable when
their inability or ignorance of the law forced appellate acquittals.
Until 1991, appellate review of the legal sufficiency of circumstantial
evidence cases required that the prosecution's proof exclude every outstand-
ing reasonable hypothesis but for the guilt of the accused. It was reasoned that
if a reasonable hypothesis inconsistent with guilt remained after the evidence
* Norman Silverman is a criminal defense lawyer based in Houston and practicing
throughout the South.

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