The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab has reduced its backlog of forensic cases by more than 55 percent over the course of eight months, according to a report released this week.
At the end of June, only 3,041 reports were older than 30 days, compared to 6,931 at the end of October 2012, records showed.
The GBI crime lab in Atlanta analyzes DNA, suspected illegal drugs, hazardous chemicals, firearms, fingerprints and human tissue recovered by investigators statewide, often in an effort to help determine cause of death.
Because of the backlog, Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten said he waits 20 to 26 weeks to have toxicology and histology reports finalized for pending autopsies.
“If they have reduced their caseload by 55 percent, that’s great news; it should speed up our toxicology results on pending autopsies,” Tuten said. “However, at this time, I have not seen any improvement. It may be too early to tell.”
Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins said he waits three to four months for toxicology reports and although he has yet to see a considerable improvement in the turnaround of GBI reports, he remains
“I can’t send out death certificates and families cannot collect insurance or activate wills without a complete autopsy,” Collins said. “It has to pick up, for the families sake at least.”
Sherry Lang, a spokeswoman for the GBI, said the state employing and retaining more forensic scientists in the crime lab – an increase she said is an “essential component in meeting the expectations of the state’s criminal justice system.”
Funding from the Governor’s Office and General Assembly in 2012 and 2013 allowed the retention of several scientists originally hired and trained using federal grant funds.
“Those scientists, in addition to existing personnel at the laboratory, have been critical in this backlog reduction effort,” Lang said.