Prosecutors in a murder case said Thursday that backups at the Vermont Forensics Lab have slowed their case, and the defense said the delays are violating their client's right to a speedy trial. So, is that courtroom strategy or is there really a back log?
Margaret Schwartz is the director of the Vermont Forensics Laboratory.
Margaret Schwartz: There is currently some backlog, yes.
Reporter Judy Simpson: And so how long?
Margaret Schwartz: Um, that is kind of hard to say. If there is a case that requires a result by a certain time we make those happen.
And while she would not talk about any ongoing trials, she did say DNA testing takes time. But the process will take a bit longer now, because one of the state's two senior DNA analysts died suddenly last month.
"If we are not functioning under low staff it would be say two weeks to three weeks. And it is mostly a process you have to go through extracting the sample, you quantify the amount of DNA in your sample; each of these steps may take a number of instrument hours, as well as an analyst's time setting things up. So, it is not a single-day process," Schwartz said.
Then all the data needs to be analyzed and written up in a report. That report is reviewed by another senior analyst before it is sent out of the lab. Despite the several week process, Schwartz says her team is working as quickly as possible.
"We certainly are able to meet any court deadlines or investigative need deadlines," she said.
Thanks in part to this new $13 million lab that was finished in 2010, giving the department more resources and space to process evidence.
There are some types of DNA testing this lab does not do, like hair samples, and the materials need to be sent out of state. Schwartz says it is up to prosecutors and defense attorneys to decide which lab they will send the materials to for the testing.
Schwartz says there is a new DNA analyst currently in training for case work.