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Put crime lab backlog under microscope

Excerpt from a Winston Salem-Journal editorial:

It’s understandably frustrating for everyone involved: The prosecutors. The defense attorneys. The accused. And the family of the victim. They’re all waiting on evidence from the State Crime Lab, which remains backlogged.

Nearly two years after an Ardmore woman, Shelia Pace Gooden, was shot to death, only one-third of the physical evidence that Winston-Salem police seized in their investigation has been sent to the State Crime Lab, the Journal’s Michael Hewlett reported last week. ….

Three men, Anthony Vinh Nguyen, Daniel Aaron Benson and Steven George Assimos, were charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Nguyen is facing the death penalty.

Analysis is held up because of the backlog at the crime lab.

“At this rate it will take, as a minimum, another year-and-a-half to complete the process,” David Botchin, an attorney representing Nguyen, wrote in a July 29 letter to Jennifer Martin, the chief assistant district attorney who is one of two prosecutors in the case, the Journal reported.

… The real problem is the continuing backlog in the crime lab.

Crime lab representatives have made the case that they’re dealing with a rising tide of demand. They’ve said that they have inadequate staff and resources and crushing caseloads. They say they’ve lost well-qualified scientists to higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Attorney General Roy Cooper should explore ideas for restructuring analyst caseloads to speed and ease the process.

And most important, the legislature needs to give the crime lab adequate money to hire enough good analysts to relieve this backlog.

Justice is waiting.

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