Governor Dannel P. Malloy, whose administration has been working to help alleviate the backlog of cases at the state's crime lab stretching over a period of years, released the following statement.
"Federal auditors have raised legitimate issues related to administrative procedures at the state crime lab. A number of the concerns have already been addressed and I am confident that all DNA testing protocols are or will be current in the very near future. None of the auditors' concerns related to evidence testing in individual cases. I have full confidence in the integrity of tests and analyses conducted by the scientific experts at our lab.
"In recent years, the lab has struggled to keep up with a dramatic increase in its workload and reductions in its professional staff. Since 2005, the overall workload at the lab has increased by 25%, but the volume of DNA evidence testing has increased by 400%. At the same time, there are 10% fewer scientists at the lab, many of whom are durational employees and depend on federal grants that may disappear in the near future. The resulting backlog in evidence processing, in some cases lasting up to three years, is not acceptable. Last year, Connecticut's backlog ranked worst in the nation. This undermines our entire criminal justice system and is not tolerable.
"I have tasked Mike Lawlor, Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, to lead a team of key stakeholders and experts to develop both a short- and long-term strategy to address this situation. I want our crime lab to once again be the model for other states to emulate. This can be done, even in difficult fiscal times. There are many efficiencies which can be achieved. For example, police, prosecutors and judges can and should reach consensus on how to prioritize requests for testing. Connecticut universities can develop seminars and symposiums to ensure that state-of-the-art techniques are utilized by the lab, and foster a training ground for interns and graduates so they can use the skills they learned in school when they move into a professional setting. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies can be asked to share a portion of the cost of evidence testing in cases sent to the lab. Administrative procedures at the lab should be reconsidered in light of national best practices.
"I know that it is possible to achieve consensus on these issues. The experts I have asked to help craft this solution share an appreciation for the indispensible work done at the lab and a demonstrated ability to get things done. I expect to have their recommendations in time to forward them to the General Assembly when it convenes in February 2012. In the meantime, I will ask my staff and budget office to take all necessary steps to address the staffing and resource issues that have been allowed to fester all too long."