HOUSTON – Houston attorney Paul Morgan has requested a federal investigation into thousands of pieces of evidence alleged to have improperly been destroyed by a former Harris County Precinct 4 deputy constable.
In a letter addressed to U.S. District Attorney Kenneth Magidson that has been obtained by KPRC2, Morgan called on Magidson to investigate potential civil rights violations, citing alleged missteps by Precinct 4 and the Harris County district attorney.
"As a direct result of Precinct 4’s unlawful destruction, 142 criminal cases have been dismissed, and over 1,000 pending cases are now in jeopardy," Morgan said in the letter. "This does not account for those potentially innocent defendants who have pleaded to cases with destroyed evidence, which could mean innocent people are sitting in prison over cases with missing evidence. According to the record, this unlawful destruction scheme goes all the way back to 2007."
Precinct 4 Constable Ken Herman disputed the idea that any scheme was involved. He attributed the tossed evidence to former Deputy Cpl. Chris Hess, a 15-year veteran of the department.
In January, Hess had been told to "clean out" the property room because it was getting full, but evidence connected to current cases that needed to be preserved was destroyed in violation of department policy and proceedures, Herman said Tuesday.
“I never thought I would have an employee that would go rogue and do what he did,” Herman said.
Herman confirmed he fired the Hess in April. He also says that an investigation by his office found that Hess improperly destroyed 7,761 pieces of evidence and that, of those, 861 were connected to 470 open cases.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said last week that her office is reviewing 21,500 pieces of evidence that were destroyed by Precinct 4 since 2007. So far, the destruction of evidence has prompted her office to dismiss 142 drug cases. She said 1,072 more cases are pending.