Local News

When It Comes To DNA Testing, Don't Believe TV

Posted May 1, 2003 6:57 a.m. EDT

— Investigators in the Buddy Myers case had said it would take several weeks to get the results of DNA testing that has been done to determine the identity of a boy in Chicago.

But molecular biologists with the State Bureau of Investigation said a single test can be done within 48 hours.

The demand is so high for DNA tests in paternity or criminal cases that it has become a waiting game. Initial reports in the Buddy Myers case were that it may be up to six weeks before those DNA tests were back.

The FBI released the results of two tests in the Myers case Wednesday. But countless other cases are still waiting for the results to come back. The reason: a backlog in the labs.

On TV's


crime scene investigators find DNA samples, send them to the lab, and, the next morning, when they come in to work, the results are there waiting for them.

That's not the way it works in a real crime laboratory.

Mark Boodee evaluates DNA evidence linked to criminal cases for the SBI. Results can set suspects free or send them to jail. In a perfect world, it could all happen in a day.

"We can work a case probably within 24 to 48 hours," Boodee said. "However, because of demand for the casework that we have on hand here, it often will run into weeks."

The SBI lab in which Boodee works has more than 40,000 specimens for five staff members to test.

"Our backlog is steadily rising," he said. "It continues to rise even today."

It's the same in private labs like LabCorps, a private company based in Burlington with forensic labs in the RTP. They charge as much as $1,000 per DNA specimen and add hundreds more for rush jobs.

The SBI doesn't send any of its DNA samples from criminal cases to private labs. A lot of smaller police departments depend on private companies to handle their testing.

While their television counterparts have the luxury of focusing on one case, "what the reality is," Boodee said, "is that we have 20, 30, 40 cases that we're all working on at the same time."