HOUSTON - An analyst at the Houston Forensic Science Center was fired last week after it was discovered that original notes about a homicide case were shredded, officials said.
“Maintaining the integrity of the documentation is very important to all of the work that we do and to knowingly destroy the notes is really the problem that led us to have to take the action that we did,” said Peter Stout, the CEO and president of the Houston Forensic Science Center.
He said they fired Megan Timlin, a digital multimedia analyst, on Jan. 24 after the problem was reported to a supervisor of the digital multimedia evidence section.
She was in charge of collecting video evidence from a homicide in the 9000 block of Beechnut outside a check-cashing store in Southwest Houston on Jan. 16 according to Stout.
“We had an analysis that had gone to a homicide scene to recover video that had been recorded at the scene, when she brought that back, there was a routine quality review of her notes, and there were a few discrepancies and minor errors, things that could be corrected,” explained Stout. “The supervisor instructed on how to correct that while preserving the original notes.”
But Stout said Timlin had destroyed the original homicide notes, which is against company policy.
“I don’t really know, I kind of wish I did know why she chose to do that, it is something she had to have known was not appropriate thing to do,” said Stout who is not sure why the analyst got rid of original documents.
“The mistakes in the original notes were really minor, things like not writing the serial number of the DVR, things for documentation to make sure we got complete documentation for the case file in case there is need for that kind of information,” explained Stout. “So really the mistakes weren’t that irreconcilable, there were things that could have been corrected, the real problem became of the knowing destruction of those original notes because really everything we do in terms of documentation really becomes part of the evidence.”
KPRC Channel 2 News interviewed the audio/video analyst in 2016 after Timilin help solved a case.
Stout said an audit will be conducted on not only the homicide case in question, but also more than 100 cases the former analyst completed during her nearly two years at the agency.
The issue will also be disclosed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission as suspected professional misconduct, officials said.
Houston police and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office were also notified of the problem, officials said.
“The whole point of why we are trying to ensure that everyone knows what happened is that we have disclosed this to everybody , that they understand what it is the actions that we have taken in it, that we will go through and evaluate the rest of the work this analyst did to see if there were any other issues and then we’ll take whatever policy changes that we need to do to try and ensure that this doesn’t happen,” explained Stout.
Houston Police are still searching for the suspect who shot and killed 32-year-old Francisco Zelaya.
The DA’s office said it’s not commenting on this situation because it is an active investigation.
“Well I’m very shocked I think that individual , he or she, has really done something that compromises any type of investigation,” said Tucker Graves a criminal defense attorney and president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.
“The case notes are very important for an investigation whether the defense lawyer is looking at it or investigators looking at it, we need to see the initial impression which is why original case notes are very, very important.”
Stout said mistakes happen, but he’s confident in the center’s operation to find those errors quickly and take care of them immediately.
He also said that he does worry something like this will hurt the center’s reputation, but believes their actions to fire the analyst and be transparent will help.
“I always worry about that, but I’d like to think that this action is an example of the system working that this is an example of we got quality systems in place that are able to catch these issues and I hope some people can take some confidence that I’m here saying here is what the problem was and here is what we did about it.”
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