Some 23,000 felons’ blood samples are piling up at the North Carolina state crime lab because the staff doesn’t have the time to extract DNA from the blood, says the Charlotte Observer. Authorities believe they could solve hundreds of crimes through matches between DNA evidence and the DNA in the backlogged samples, which are stacked in cardboard boxes in Raleigh. A law enacted last year required DNA samples from all felons, not just the violent felons whose blood has been collected since 1994. The sponsor, state Sen. Tony Rand, requested only enough money to preserve the samples, not to analyze them. The backlog grows by about 1,000 samples a week as authorities take blood from newly convicted felons and from felons released from prison. “It’s kind of like having a brand-new Porsche and not being able to drive it,” said Sgt. Darrell Price of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Sexual Assault Unit.
The use of DNA is growing in cases with no known suspects. Scientists are extracting DNA from a broader range of evidence, and states are extracting DNA from a broader range of felons. The result is a rapid increase in matches — from 600 through 1999 to 13,600 as of April — with the national DNA database. DNA evidence also has exonerated 13 death row inmates nationwide since 1993. North Carolina lags far behind the most successful states in solving crimes with DNA evidence. database, still composed solely of DNA from violent felons, has matched only 177 crimes with suspects. Virginia, with a database of 216,900 profiles from both violent and nonviolent offenders, has matched 1,919 crimes with suspects.