FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jackson, MS—Attorney General Jim Hood today presented to lawmakers the findings of the ?Attorney General’s Advisory Task Force on fully funding the Mississippi Crime Laboratory, the Mississippi Medical Examiner’s Office and DNA Processing and Procedures?.
The task force was created by Mississippi Attorney General to study the funding and staffing issues facing the Mississippi State Crime Lab and Medical Examiner’s Offices, as well as the state’s system for gathering and processing DNA samples. Due to a lack of adequate funding, Mississippi does not have a full-time medical examiner to conduct autopsies and the crime lab has no handwriting analyst.
The proposals formally presented to the House En Banc Judiciary Committee this morning at the State Capitol included two tiers of funding, one which focuses on a continuous revenue source and one which provides the necessary money for a much needed new facility:
? An amendment of 99-19-73, Standard State monetary assessment for certain violations, misdemeanors and felonies;suspension or reduction of assessment prohibited;collection and deposit of assessments;refunds) to include a $13 increase on every ticket/citation in Mississippi, which shall be placed in a special fund and transferred to the Mississippi Crime Lab. Also, upon conviction of a felony in Mississippi, the Judge shall direct the defendant to pay a $300 crime lab fund fee. That fee shall be collected by the Department of Corrections and transferred to the Mississippi Crime Lab.
? A general fund appropriation of $40 million for the construction of a new crime lab, medical examiner’s office and DNA processing facility. The facility will be between 90,000-100,000 square feet in size. Bonds will be written for the construction of the facility within one year of the bill becoming law.
General Hood stated, “These suggestions are from the very people in the law enforcement community who directly feel the impact of inadequate funding. We studied our crime lab operation here, and we traveled to our neighboring states to see how they compared. We know we need a larger space to operate in and we know we need to generate more funds. What we are offering are reasonable short term solutions.”
Michael Guest, District Attorney for Madison and Rankin Counties and a member of the task force stated to the committee, ?Our criminal justice system would be better served by fully funding our crime lab. We would no longer see delays in indictments being handed down by the Grand Jury or in cases going to trial. What we are proposing will help increase the lengths of sentences for those who are found guilty and will help exonerate those that are innocent.?
The task force, consisting of representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Public Safety, the State Crime Lab, the Department of Corrections, Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, Prosecutors, coroners and pathologists, met several times since August of this year to study the issue.