Private Labs: Feds Could Speed Clearing DNA Analysis Backlog


Private forensic laboratories argue that they could help cut the backlog of DNA evidence awaiting analysis in many states if an FBI requirement were eliminated or eased. Hundreds of thousands of “rape kits” remain untested because state and local crime laboratories are unable to handle the load, representatives of New Jersey-based Orchid Cellmark Inc. told leaders of criminal-justice organizations yesterday in Washington, D.C. The private lab says a major problem is an FBI rule that any evidence test contracted out by a public lab to a private one must undergo a “100% technical review,” which typically takes more than four hours per case.

Michael Volkov, an attorney for Orchid and former congressional staff member, contended “there is no evidence that private labs are less effective” than public ones. Jeff Boschwitz, a vice president of Orchid, said that mistakes by private labs are rare. Orchid has helped build a coalition of law enforcement and crime victims’ organizations to lobby the White House, Justice Department, and Congress to change the FBI rule. Orchid cited a Justice Department audit last year that said that 16 percent of state crime labs were aware of at least once case in which crimes may have been committed by an offender while samples from that person had not been analyzed because of a backlog.

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