Several Houston area DWI convictions have come under review after a toxicology expert witness had her credentials questioned following a recent trial. The expert has defended herself and her work, however, defense attorneys have asked the Houston DA to conduct a thorough review of past convictions and to remove her from testifying as an expert witness during future DWI trials.
Houston Toxicology Expert Witness Has Credentials Questioned
An expert witness in toxicology who has taken the stand in hundreds of Houston DWI cases since 2006 has had her credibility and qualifications come under fire after defense attorneys noticed her degree does not reflect the specialty upon which her testimony focuses. Dr. Fessessework Guale works as an expert in toxicology with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, and has built up a reputation as a noted witness over years of testimony in DWI and other felony trials. Dr. Guale entered the field by claiming she had a Master’s of Science degree in Toxicology from Oklahoma State University, but some digging by a local defense attorney uncovered inconsistencies in her record.
According to Tyler Flood, who is president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, Guale has misrepresented her qualifications and put her expert testimony in serious doubt. Research by Flood revealed that Guale’s degree is actually in physiological sciences, which could include toxicology research, however, Guale’s studies in toxicology focused largely on animals rather than humans. Flood found these revelations to be significant, telling reporters, “She has flat out stated and testified under oath, I have a Master’s Degree in Toxicology, and that is not the truth … She has lied to the crime lab that she works at, she’s lied to prosecutors, and she’s lied to judges.”
In addition to potentially seeking criminal charges against Guale for the deception, Flood and other criminal defense attorneys have asked for her resignation, for a thorough review of all the DWI cases in which she has testified as a toxicology expert witness, and for the DA to stop using her as an expert witness in trials.
Toxicology Expert Defends Herself Against Allegations of Deception
Speaking to reporters at her home in Houston, Dr. Fessessework Guale defended herself against the allegations that she had lied to prosecutors and judges about her qualifications as a toxicology expert witness. According to Dr. Guale, the matter is simply a “misunderstanding,” and she has the necessary qualifications to take the stand as an expert in toxicology. Guale told reporters, “My training is in toxicology but the degree says physiological sciences, which is a big area which toxicology is a sub part of it … It’s called a sub discipline.” She did not address concerns that her toxicology focus was on animals while she studied at Oklahoma State.
Her employers at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS) released a statement which supported Dr. Guale’s qualifications to testify as a toxicology expert witness, but noted it would review her education and training in light of the allegations against her. In its statement, the HCIFS noted that Guale had participated in toxicology training and received certification by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology “reflecting her knowledge, training, and experience in forensic toxicology.” Pending completion of the review of her prior testimony and educational qualifications, Guale has been reassigned and may require re-training before she can continue to testify in court.
Houston DA to Review Impact of Toxicology Expert Mix-up
Attorney Tyler Flood and several other Houston area defense attorneys have called for a complete review of all the cases in which Dr. Guale testified as a toxicology expert witness. The Harris County DA released a statement which said its office is in the process of assessing which cases Dr. Guale’s testimony may have impacted the verdict and will proceed with a formal review accordingly. Attorneys representing clients who were convicted after trials which featured Guale have been asked to contact the DA, but whether or not the issue will result in convictions being overturned remains to be seen.
Attorneys for Jaime Flores, who was convicted of being intoxicated and causing a fatal car accident in part due to Guale’s toxicology expert testimony, have announced that they will file a motion for a new trial based on the revelation about her qualifications and education. Given that Guale has undergone training in toxicology analysis, the miscommunication about the precise nature of her degree may have minimal effect on most of the prior cases she worked on. However, her reputation has come under serious fire and she could be dismissed from future testimony as a toxicology expert in DWI trials.