Lawmakers are demanding answers from the Illinois State Police about delays on DNA processing.
Senators fought back tears as they heard testimony from people who’ve been directly affected by these delays — people like Christina Hopkins. She and her family have been waiting on justice for her cousin Shantieya Smith, who was murdered. Hopkins believes the DNA testing backlog is part of the hold-up.
“I feel like they want us to just shake it off and keep moving, but I refuse to because she has an 8-year-old daughter who deserves to know what happened to her Mom, who deserves to know why her Mom was taken from her,” said a teary-eyed Hopkins.
The Illinois State Police handles most forensic testing, and has recently decreased the backlog by 16 percent. ISP Director Brendan Kelly, said the agency needs money for additional technology and to hire more forensic scientists.
Currently, the turnaround time is, on average, 215 days.
Carrie Ward, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said that’s too long.
“And when we consider reasons why victims may not report crimes, this waiting period has to be a factor,” she told lawmakers. “Why report a crime when you know it may take years to slog through the system? Justice delayed is justice denied, especially for sexual assault survivors.”
State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, chair of the Public Health Law Committee, told state police she wants the turnaround time reduced to two months.
The 15-member Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science is scheduled to meet on February 20 to discuss expanding forensic technologies to solve crimes and protect the public.