The McShane Firm recently was recently in the news because of our successful litigation strategy in the case of Tahir Gardner. Gardner, of Harrisburg, was being held for his alleged involvement in an assault on a police officer. However, when DNA tests on a key piece of evidence came back negative, Gardner’s bond was lowered and he was released from prison.
However, Gardener languished in jail for eight months waiting for the results of the DNA tests. Unfortunately for Gardner and many, many others like him, County and State crime labs have such heavy backlogs that the Truth is delayed- Justice is delayed.
A recent article outlines this troubling, dangerous problem:
With DNA identification becoming more common in criminal cases, caseloads and backlogs are growing in some Pennsylvania crime labs, forcing prosecutors to sometimes wait months for results.
The wait time can be crucial in cases relying on DNA evidence to convict or clear someone arrested for a crime.
Another quote in the article really caught my eye and sums up the root or this issue:
“It will never be zero. There will always be a backlog. If I said there was no backlog, I’d be flooded with requests,” said Dr. Karl Williams, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. “Every publicly funded laboratory is facing insufficient resources.”
When you have heavy backlogs and a lack of resources, there is a lot of pressure. Under pressure, people tend to take shortcuts. This is the same situation that lead to the tragic Annie Dookhan episode. Too much work, not enough resources, pressure to deliver, theses were all leading causes which allowed Dookhan to perform bogus tests without anyone asking why.
Without proper funding and resources, crime labs will be plagued by these problems which undermine Justice. Innocent people will be languishing in jail and there will always be the opportunity for a corrupt technician to act unscrupulously.