April 2, 2004
KHOU-TV wins George Foster Peabody Award
Houston, TX -- KHOU-TV has been awarded one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, the George Foster Peabody Award. The award marks the second Peabody for KHOU's investigative team of journalists in just three years.
The 11News Defenders won the award for an hour-long special that began with an investigative series of reports, "Evidence of Errors." The special focused on faulty DNA testing in the Houston Police Department Crime Lab.
The investigation and subsequent news reports exposed shoddy work at HPD's Crime Lab and were instrumental in freeing a prisoner who was incarcerated on erroneous DNA evidence.
The reports by KHOU's investigative reporter Anna Werner, investigative producer David Raziq and investigative photojournalist, Chris Henao reviewed a number of criminal cases from the crime lab and questioned whether innocent people may have been imprisoned or the guilty set free as result of the crime lab testing. KHOU enlisted the help of nationally known forensic scientists and experts to review their findings. Those experts found and KHOU reported that the lab had made errors that showed "repeated gross incompetence."
The series was initially broadcast in November 2002 and documented serious errors by HPD's Crime Lab. DNA testing at the lab was halted and caused the Harris County District Attorney to review the test results in hundreds of current and past criminal cases. That office has now selected hundreds of cases for re-testing because of what they call unreliable lab work.
In addition, the series has also helped free one man from prison. Twenty-one-year-old Josiah Sutton was 16 when he was convicted of rape. HPD's DNA tests indicated he was guilty. Sutton was serving a 25-year prison sentence when KHOU's Defenders began to question testing in his case. As a result, the DNA evidence from the crime was re-tested by authorities and the new results eliminated Sutton as a suspect. He has been released from prison and is awaiting a possible pardon from the Texas govenor.
KHOU's investigative team has filed from 40 to 50 reports on the story since it first suspected the problem in the summer of 2002.
"Getting one Peabody is an enormous achievement," says KHOU Vice President and News Director, Mike Devlin. "Getting two is an unbelievable achievement. There are not a lot of local stations that can do that. This clearly solidifies this team as the best investigative team in Houston, if not the country, in local television."
The Peabody Awards were established in 1940 and recognize distinguished achievement and meritorious service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. The Peabody Awards will be presented on May 17 in New York. This is the second time KHOU's 11 News Defenders investigative team has won the prestigious award. They first won in 2001 for their investigation of Firestone tires, which led to the national recall of more than six million tires.
KHOU-TV is part of Belo Corp., one of the nation's largest media companies with a diversified group of market-leading television, newspaper, cable and interactive media assets. A Fortune 1000 company with approximately 7,900 employees and $1.4 billion in annual revenues, Belo operates news and information franchises in some of Americas most dynamic markets and regions, including Texas, the Northwest, the Southwest, Rhode Island and the Mid-Atlantic region. Belo owns 19 television stations (six in the top 15 markets) reaching 13.8 percent of U.S. television households; owns or operates 10 cable news channels; and manages one television station through a local marketing agreement. Belos daily newspapers include The Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal, The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA) and the Denton Record-Chronicle (Denton, TX). Belo Interactives new media businesses include more than 30 Web sites, several interactive alliances and a broad range of Internet-based products. Additional information, including earnings releases, is available online at www.belo.com. For more information contact Wendy Burkeen, APR, Director of Community Marketing, at 713-521-4312.