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NC crime lab director says funding needed to clear DNA testing backlog

Posted April 9, 2014

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— The director of the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, which examines evidence in criminal investigations for law enforcement agencies across the state, says he hopes lawmakers will increase funding for the lab this year to help clear the backlog of cases in need of DNA testing.

Director Joseph John said Wednesday that the reason for the delay in analyzing DNA is primarily because of a lack of manpower.

"We need more people," John said. "Secondly, we need to be able to pay those people a salary that will keep them here at the state laboratory."

Last year, the staff in his DNA division worked 4,577 hours of overtime to try to keep up with 3,299 cases. John has 24 forensic biologists and says he needs at least 21 more analysts.

John will be asking lawmakers to approve the funding again in the upcoming session at a cost of about $860 thousand per year.

For the past two years, the General Assembly has denied the crime lab's request for additional funding to hire more forensic biologists.

"If they are serious about trying to get to the truth in criminal cases, if they want the judicial system to work, they need to fund it," defense attorney Scott Holmes said.

Holmes and other attorneys are concerned about the backlog, saying their clients have been in jail, in some cases, for more than two years awaiting DNA test results.

Last week, Durham County prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Holmes' client, Brandon Townsend, a 21-year-old charged in the case of a drive-by shooting of a 13-year-old girl in Durham nearly three years ago.

Part of the reason for the dismissal was because the state crime lab had not completed DNA testing.

"There's no one in the state of North Carolina any more frustrated about the delay caused by our insufficient resources than I am as the laboratory director," John said."

Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback said publicly last week he had no issues with the lab and that it has always been very responsive to his office.

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  • less_govt_is_better_govt Apr 10, 2014

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    Amen!

    Donnie Harrison has always had the mentality that the govt can profit off catching criminals so that allows his deputies to make everyone who does not have a badge a potential criminal.

    I am all for catching criminals but govt is too big and inefficient if there are that many cases. Instead of using law enforcement for revenue collection how about public safety?

  • A person Apr 10, 2014

    J7ust run them thru like Duane Deavers taught them all to do with their tests. It does not matter if they are true or not

  • 68_dodge_polara Apr 10, 2014

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    and they are correcting this...

  • Kenny Dunn Apr 10, 2014
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    Is this man claiming it takes money to run state services? Shocking!

  • dennis8 Apr 10, 2014

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    The previous administration did not cut taxes to the point the state is running out of cash. So far the main budget cuts the GOP have put forward are to cut money for education, cut money for unemployment, cut money for MC. While the GOP loves to cut those social programs there is not enough money in them to make up the shortfall the budget writers (GOP) should have known was there if they could do math.

  • rduwxboy Apr 10, 2014

    This is the second time in weeks we have heard McCrory's picks say the State doesn't pay enough to hire and doesn't pay enough to maintain workers. Now the State is about to have an historic budget revenue shortfall. NC sure isn't going to get safer by letting probable felons on the street because the State cannot get them to trial.

  • 68_dodge_polara Apr 10, 2014

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    Yet another problem created by the previous party in power yet still blamed on the GOP? I hope they do fix this soon as it would be yet another problem fixed that the Dems created.

  • 68_dodge_polara Apr 10, 2014

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    That would be funnier if it wasn't true...

  • ncprr1 Apr 10, 2014

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    Yeah, it's a shame that the money isn't just pouring in like it did when the socialists were running things. Remember how wonderful is used to be? Every day it was just rainbows, with unicorns pulling large carts full of free money into the state...Where did they all go?

  • Jump1 Apr 10, 2014

    Of course, why not just reduce the amount of investigation that are not needed.

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