W.Va. state crime lab backlog delaying justice

An editorial from The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — It all looks so easy on “NCIS.”

The evidence is collected, the scientists analyze it and the case is all wrapped up and the bad guys locked away, all in one hour.

“NCIS” was the most-watched television series in the 2012-13 season and continues to bulldoze rivals in its time slot.

Problem is, the show gives us a warped idea of how the evidentiary aspect of criminal procedure works.

Television isn’t reality, and this was brought home to us by our reporting on the case of Sylvia Washington, whose death in Beckley in April was ruled a homicide.

Beckley Police Detective Frank Priddy, as he has several times when we inquired about progress in the case, continues to voice his frustration over the delay in getting a forensic examination of a set of mobile phones at the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab.

Detective Priddy, like Sylvia Washington’s family, friends and neighbors, continues his wait.

Our state crime lab, like many others across the nation, is feeling the pressure of a backlog of cases and not enough staff to process them quickly.

A year ago this month, lawmakers in Charleston tried to solve a personnel retention issue at the crime lab by passing a measure that increased salaries for forensic lab workers.

It didn’t work, officials at the lab tell us…

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