Death Row Case Questioned Because of Crime Lab Problems

9-15-05 - A Texas appeals court has ordered a new hearing in a death row case because of questions about the Houston Police Department's handling of DNA evidence. The ruling opens the door for more appeals involving the troubled crime lab.

The decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals indicates the justices have seen something in Randolph Mansoor Greer's case that bears scrutiny, according to legal observers.

South Texas College of Law professor Charles Rhodes said the ruling does not award Greer a "get out of jail free card," but it is a significant order from a conservative court.

"In the last decade, it has not been a court that looks to overturn, or even provide a mechanism to overturn, criminal convictions," Rhodes said. "But this order shows that (the court) is concerned with the allegations in this case. And this case is not going to be the only case in which similar concerns are going to be raised."

The order for a public hearing is rare, Houston defense attorney Brian Wice agreed.