avery jun 30 2004 culhane pictured
Lew Wasserman, had ar CAPABILITIES CRAIG SCHNREINERFOR THE NORTHWESTERN FORENSIC SCIENTIST SHERRY CULHANE, left, talks with Marinette County Sheriff Mike Kessler regarding a missing person case he is trying to solve. He suspects foul play in the case and came to an open house at the lab with questions about DNA analysis. Culhane says the technology depicted on television shows is exaggerated from what happens in real life. -pspeps. ..J Officials hope new crime lab will speed analysis BY JIM COLLAR of The Northwestern Forensic evidence and laboratory capabilities have added a new level of certainty to the criminal justice system. It hasn't necessarily added any speed to the process. Consider the case of Travis T. Lamb, 23, who was charged with attempted homicide nearly one year ago. His Winnebago County trial dates were pushed back in January and again in March because evidence analysis was not yet completed. His trial was pushed back again - this time to August - during a court hearing in Winnebago County last week. Evidence analysis still isn't complete, said E.J. Jelinski, Lamb s attorney. "It's frustrating for the defense or the prosecution trying to build their cases when so much of the evidence depends on foren-sics," he said. "I'm sure it doesn't happen often, but there could be cases out there where attorneys are waiting for evidence, the defendant spends one or two years in jail, and the evidence comes back showing his innocence. That would be awful." ADD CERTAINTY State officials are aware of the problems, and are confident they've taken the first step to correct them. Wisconsin this month 'opened a new $12 million state crime lab in Madison that includes new technology and more than twice the space of the previous lab. Officials said the additional workspace and new technology will create efficiencies that should allow lab analysts to complete work on more cases each year. The Wisconsin Department of Justice operates crime labs in Madison, Milwaukee and Wausau. The Madison lab is responsible for forensic testing in 64 Wisconsin counties. Analysis completed at the new lab includes DNA, fingerprinting, drug and chemical identification, 'ballistics and handwriting analysis. While the laboratory received an upgrade, staffing at the lab has not. The 50,000-square-foot laboratory has room for 36 analysts. Despite the additional space, the justice department maintained its staff of 30 analysts and 18 support positions after its move. Attorney General Peg "Lautenschlager last year used the case of Steven Avery to push for more crime lab resources. DNA v - " r-TS lost that appeal. TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM 1 . . . ' ' I'.., i f -"v. 'h'PAr .Jl,-, f ,,,, i pro 1 1 - t.WI8B-' '"'.!') V , ..- n-, CRAIG SCHNREINERFOR THE NORTHWESTERN BOB BLOCK, head of the drug identification unit at the state crime lab, holds an extracted sample from a marijuana plant. Blxk said the drug section handles 60 percent of the cases submitted to the lab. evidence exonerated Avery after he spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault and attempted murder he didn't commit. The crime lab's workload - and its power to find guilt or innocence - is a strong argument for additional analysts, though tight state budgets have made any new positions difficult to obtain, Lautenschlager said. "We've worked very hard to maintain what we have," she said. Lautenschlager said the state's labs have made progress in cutting down their backlog of cases, and better workspace should mean even greater progress. there was no violation of .... f .. v,:.. , LJ. i'i.a' , '. mM,2i Madison's crime lab remained in the same 20,000-square-foot facility for 40 years prior to the recent move. While the lab didn't grow, it's workload exploded. Last year, Wisconsin's crime labs registered 4,600 new cases and analysts were able to complete work on 4,800 cases. Still, the labs maintain a backlog of 2,700 cases, Lautenschlager said. Winnebago County offers a textbook example of just how much investigators have grown to depend on the lab. Winnebago County's first case using DNA analy-CRIME LAB, PAGE C2 its. I f JIM The Monday later Appeals decision.