Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $116,057)
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (AFDS) will use funds to reduce forensic case backlogs.
The ADFS is the only agency that provides a full-service forensic laboratory system operating in the State. The ADFS provides primarily seven forensic services to the State of Alabama: 1) drug chemistry, 2) toxicology, 3) forensic biology (DNA analysis), 4) firearms and toolmarks, 5) forensic pathology (autopsies of decedents), 6) fire debris (arson analysis) and 7) implied consent (breath testing for alcohol).
The main problem facing the ADFS is the backlog of forensic cases and the lack of supplies needed to conduct scientific analysis to remedy these backlogs. The backlogs that are directly impacting the citizens of Alabama and the State Court system are the backlogs in drug chemistry (controlled substances) and the backlog in Forensic Pathology (autopsy reports).
The impact is that the backlog in lab reports from drug chemistry and Forensic Pathology section has caused many delays in cases going to court. These court delays can be in excess of 180 days in some extreme cases. The ADFS works closely with the State's District Attorney's offices and court system to work "rush cases" out of turn to ensure that these delays are minimized as much as possible but delays are common. In 2011, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) consolidated laboratories and eliminated routine crime scene response. Agencies in the rural areas that depended on ADFS for crime scene assistance were left with limited to no resources due to this event.
In response to the closure of the ADFS Lab on the Jacksonville State University (JSU) campus, JSU and local I law enforcement agencies worked together to create the Center for Applied Forensics (CFAF) at JSU in 2012. The mission for CF AF was to provide crime scene assistance to law enforcement agencies in northeast Alabama, provide continuing education opportunities regarding crime scene processing to local law enforcement and evaluate new technology applicable to forensics at the local level. The Center for Applied Forensics is currently averaging 4 major crime scene responses a month. The scenes are generally complex, involving issues beyond the capabilities of the local investigating agency. The Center for Applied Forensics partners with law enforcement agencies in DeKalb, Cherokee, Etowah, Calhoun, Cleburne, Randolph and St. Clair Counties to provide crime scene assistance. As an example, during the month of November, 2016 CFAF personnel processed six (6) violent crime scenes, two (2) of which were classified as capital murder cases. Evidence was documented and collected at each scene by CFAF personnel. The Center for Applied Forensics has acquired "Justice Trax" software and computer equipment to facilitate the management of crime scene evidence.
The addition of the software and computer equipment during calendar year 2016 has greatly facilitated the tracking of evidence from the crime scene until it is stored in the evidence vault.