New grant could help Sheriff's Dept. solve backlogged DNA cases - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

New grant could help Sheriff's Dept. solve backlogged DNA cases

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By News 8 Reporter Richard Allyn

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - In any given month, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's crime lab receives 200 to 300 requests to analyze forensic evidence involving DNA, which has led to a current backlog of hundreds of cases.

A new grant from the Department of Justice could cut down on that number, and help close out cases that may otherwise go unsolved.

"There has been a steady increase in the demand for our work because of the new awareness of DNA evidence," said Stephen Guroff, a supervising criminalist for the county's Sheriff's Department.

This demand on the Sheriff's Department's crime lab has led to a current backlog of some 300 cases.

"They are either sitting on the analyst's desk waiting for the analyst to get to them or they are actually being analyzed at the moment," said Guroff.

This new federal grant of $275,000 could significantly cut down that number, helping buy a new, more powerful computer server to link up with the FBI's database; replace some compound microscopes now used by the lab's 15 analysts with a more high-tech microscope imaging system; and conduct necessary validation tests to be able to use an $80,000 machine bought through grant money last year that would automatically move liquids from one test tube to another, which could free up analysts for other work.

"The big benefit, at least we're hoping, is that cases will move through the process more quickly," Guroff added. "We'll be able to get the results out to the investigators in a more timely fashion."

"DNA is the most important forensic tool of the past 100 years," said Justin Brooks, program director of the California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law.

"With DNA cases, when it is properly done, you can absolutely prove people innocent, and you can to a near certainty prove people to be guilty," Brooks added.

This new grant money comes in addition to more than $1 million already received through the same program over the past seven years.

The new equipment and testing could be purchased by early next year.



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