The Washington State Patrol’s overburdened DNA-testing program got a $1.4 million federal grant to help the state chip away at an increasing backlog of cases, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Director Sarah Hart of the National Institute of Justice came to Seattle to announce the grant, one of many being given to state crime labs across the country. “We’re not using DNA to its full potential,” she said. “We want this to be a routine criminal justice tool.”
More than $1 million will go toward reducing the state’s backlog of more than 700 DNA cases and tackling the 20,000 convicted felon samples waiting to be tested and entered into the FBI’s national DNA offender databank. The databank has linked 152 offenders from Washington to unsolved crimes since the program began. DNA evidence in criminal cases now waits an average of six months before being tested and is sometimes delayed up to two years. The Post-Intelligencer reported this summer that forensic scientists at the labs have contaminated tests or made other mistakes while handling DNA evidence in at least 23 major crime cases in the last three years.