Moultrie crime lab gets budget axe - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Moultrie crime lab gets budget axe

By LeiLani Golden - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB)  - The closing of Moultrie's Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab means offices that currently send their evidence there will now have to send it all the way to Macon, essentially doubling Macon's case load overnight and backlogging the justice system.

The closing of the crime labs has taxpayers and authorities from 27 counties in southwest Georgia very upset. The lab is a multi-million dollar facility that the taxpayers of this state built. Now it is going to just sit there unused while investigators must struggle with getting their evidence processed somewhere else.

Colquitt County's Sheriff Al Whittington doesn't believe the GBI headquarters' promises regarding evidence processing from closed crime labs.

"We've been assured that the labs will be able to keep up. We'll I'm gonna tell you something. If you believe that, you can just bring me the Easter Bunny's autograph Sunday because I assure you it will not work. It cannot work."

Even Criminal defense attorneys like Robert Jewel agree. "It's going to make it extremely difficult for law enforcement keeping with evidence, transporting evidence. drugs isn't the only things that lab is responsible for. Serious crimes, use of a crime lab, autopsies, DNA analysis and other things of that nature."

And authorities say evidence in serious cases cannot be trusted with a mailman. "We're going to have a deputy deliver that evidence to Macon or Atlanta or wherever. If I have a deputy sheriff running up and down the road delivering evidence, they aren't in Colquitt County doing the job I hired them to do."

Jewel says the long term affect of crime lab closings will favor defendants who have a constitutional right to speedy trials.

"The more backlogged the state is in cases, the more favorable that is to the defense. It can be very beneficial to criminal defendants in that it may put the state in a position where they have to compromise on what would otherwise be a good prosecutable case."

"We had a man in jail on drug charges recently that one of our Superior Court judges told me we had to release him simply because he sat in jail 9 months and his case was not prepared."

And crimes tend to rise with down economies. Meaning they'll just be an influx of new cases with no way to get rid of old ones.

Whittington understands the state's budget crisis, but he believes they " Are tampering with essential services. Services that ought to be provided to the taxpayers of the state."

Colquitt County will join other counties in asking county commissions to help pay for the Valdosta crime lab.

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