Criminal/DUI Defense Blog

State Crime Lab Faces Heat from Feds for “Staggering” Backlog

Posted by Erin FieldAug 15, 20110 Comments

The Connecticut state forensics crime lab is under serious scrutiny after two federal audits and subsequent feedback. In 2004 there was no backlog in the lab. Today, there are 3,900 cases waiting processing, some nearing their statute of limitations deadline. As a matter of fact, the state is so concerned about these deadlines that the entire lab staff may have to solely focus on these cases, disregarding the others, in order to beat the deadline before cases have to be dismissed.

Governor Malloy has said “The audits fit into a larger picture. There are serious problems at the state crime lab.” He has since announced the creation of a 17 member panel to develop a plan to reduce the backlog. He's also asked judges, police, and prosecutors to prioritize evidence going forward, giving lab workers some direction for handling the most urgent of cases.

The cases in the backlog represent everything from DNA rape tests to ballistics testing.

Part of the problem–DNA evidence submitted to the lab has jumped 400% since 2005. And while the cases coming into the lab have skyrocketed, staff has dropped 10%. In order to staff the lab full time to overcome the backlog, it's estimated the state would have to spend an additional $3.7 million per year.

The federal audits were concerned that this backlog and lack of staff could create serious vulnerabilities and potential errors in the cases as existing staff struggles to keep or catch up.

According to the Hartford Courant:

In the validation section of the DNA audit, the investigators checked “no” on each of the following questions: Does the lab follow written analytical procedures approved by the technical leader? Are the lab's standard operating procedures reviewed annually by the technical leader? Does the lab have standard procedures for each analytical method?

State officials are cautious to say that any errors have been made or that the reports open the door for any criminal appeals on cases that have already been processed. Kevin Kane, the Chief State's Attorney says “these are preliminary reports” and that it would be “premature” to say any cases which hinged on DNA evidence were affected by the findings.

Of his newly appointed panel, Governor Malloy would like to see a plan in place by February to get started on resolving the backlog and chronic under-staffing. He plans on asking lawmakers to address the staffing situation as soon as possible.

The integrity of criminal evidence is crucial in any case. From the moment it is seized by the police, evidence must be handled with the most careful attention to detail in order to maintain its quality and its admissibility in a court of law.

If you are facing criminal charges in Connecticut and have questions about the evidence in your case contact me today.