Judge rules probation evidence not credible
Harris County's probation department leaders urged to resign
A Harris County judge ruled Monday she will no longer allow drug test results provided by the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department to be entered as evidence against probationers in her court.
District Judge Denise Collins' ruling comes after three days of testimony showing a long list of problems, errors and mix-ups in the department's history of testing probationers for illegal drugs.
Collins called the department's acts "egregious" and said leaders turned a "blind eye to the systemic problems" with the drug tests.
As Local 2 Investigates reported last week, the problems caused some positive drug tests to be linked to the wrong people. In some of those cases, probationers went back to jail as part for those erroneous test results.
Defense attorney Lisa Andrews uncovered the problems and called several probation department employees to the stand.
On Monday, employee Dr. James Goldman testified that widespread changes were never made to the database used to record the drug test results -- even after he told supervisors about the continuing problems.
"It seemed there was no part of the process that was exempt from error after error after error," Andrews said.
Probation department leaders admitted on the stand that they never told prosecutors or even judges about the problems, even when they knew probationers with erroneous tests went to jail.
Director Paul Becker admitted he should have told judges about the mistakes, but never did.
"The buck stops with me," Becker said.
After the ruling, Judge Collins called for Becker and three top assistants, Ray Garcia, Gilbert Garcia and Kim Valentine, to resign immediately.
Becker then told Local 2 Investigates that he will strongly consider resigning.
"If a judge has lost confidence in my ability to run a department, that's going to make it very challenging to run the department in the future," Becker said.
Judge Collins also said she was forwarding all of the testimony to every court judge in Harris County.
A similar ruling in those courts could potentially affect thousands of probation cases.