Forensic backlogs threaten speedy trial rights, says DA

Published: Oct. 7, 2015 at 12:35 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2015 at 1:35 AM CST
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COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Guilty or innocent, some people are remaining locked up for over a year waiting to go to trial.

Prosecutors can't take these cases to court without having evidence and autopsies processed.

The backlog at the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences is forcing them to wait, and one North Alabama district attorney is calling the situation "catastrophic."

Colbert County DA Robert Bryce Jr. says this problem doesn't just affect him, it affects all of Alabama. He says if it gets worse, it could lead to an accused criminal walking right out of jail.

The delay in processing evidence is a topic we've been following for more than two years; check out our July 2013 report and April 2014 follow-up for background information.

For over a year, Michael Logan of Tuscumbia has been behind bars - but has not been convicted. Logan is charged with capital murder in the death of his 2-year-old child.

Tuscumbia Police Chief Tony Logan said the child suffered multiple traumas to the head and body.

"The injuries were obviously not accidental," said Chief Logan at a news conference in August 2014.

MORE on the Michael Logan case

The Colbert County DA wants to prosecute the case, but his hands are tied.

"You're just sitting there waiting and waiting and waiting... and it's becoming ridiculous," said Graham.

Graham has been forced to delay going to court time and time again because he is still waiting on the infant's autopsy from the Department of Forensic Sciences.

"It's pretty embarrassing for the state of Alabama, if you want to be honest about it," he said, "that we cannot get an autopsy done within a year on a baby that was killed in a capital murder case."

Logan's is not a unique case, Graham said. The DA is waiting on forensic results for several cases ranging from drug offenses to violent crimes.

"The whole thing is catastrophic to the public," said Graham.

If the backlog gets worse, Graham said it could affect an accused criminal's right to a speedy trial.

"I'm assuming at some point it could get to where a judge could decide 'This is long enough,' and possibly toss the case out because of lack of prosecution," he said.

Graham said the Department of Forensic Sciences needs more funding to accommodate the state's criminal justice system.

"The prosecution of dangerous criminals and public safety seem to have taken a back seat," he said.

At present, Graham has no idea when he will get the infant's autopsy results.

We reached out to Logan's defense attorney about the delays in his case. We were told it has been beneficial because they have more time to prepare. However, they still want to get their client out of jail.

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