Backlogs at Crime Labs Undermine Justice

The McShane Firm recently was recently in the news because of our successful litigation strategy in the case of T.G. T.G., 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, T.G.’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 T.G. and many, many others like him, County and State crime labs have such heavy backlogs that the Truth is delayed- Justice is delayed.

Allegheny County Crime Lab
Allegheny County Crime Lab (credit: KDKA)

A recent article outlines this troubling, dangerous problem:

DNA testing hinders swift justice

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.
Read more:

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.

Justin McShane

PA DUI attorney Justin J. McShane is the President/CEO of The McShane Firm, LLC - Pennsylvania's top criminal law and DUI law firm. He is the highest rated DUI attorney in PA as rated by Justin McShane is a double Board certified attorney. He is the first and so far the only Pennsylvania attorney to achieve American Bar Association recognized board certification in DUI defense from the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. He is also a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Approved Agency.

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