A backlog at the North Carolina state crime lab is delaying arrests, convictions, and trials across the state, the Associated Press reports. Eric Hicks, the State Bureau of Investigation’s only computer forensic technician, is in such high demand that he handles only murder or child exploitation cases. He has a backlog of about 50 cases, a year’s work. “We need help. We need it bad,” Hicks said.
The lab’s 17 geneticists have 36,000 DNA samples awaiting analysis and review before they can go into a database. The 19 drug chemists who travel to methamphetamine lab busts have a backlog of 15,000 cases. That backlog has delayed trials a year or more, left jails packed with defendants awaiting lab work, and a smaller pool of suspects when investigators use the DNA database to try to identify a rapist or killer. Police and prosecutors say the bottleneck is delaying arrests and convictions. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who oversees the crime lab, has been unable to persuade the state Senate to OK a $4.4 million expansion budget request to pay for more agents.