Today, via interoffice mail from the Hinds County DA's Office, no less, I received a copy of an Innocence Project report entitled "Investigating Forensic Problems in the United States: How the Federal Government Can Strengthen Oversight Through the Coverdell Grant Program."
The Coverdell Grant Program is the vehicle by which the U.S. Dept. of Justice gives grant money to the states to help offset the high cost of analyzing forensic evidence in criminal matters. In 2004, Congress put new regulations in place for the Coverdell program in an effort to improve the quality of the work our state crime labs were doing. Reasoning that oversight and investigation by an outside agency would best ensure that result, Congress required that state entities getting Coverdell money would have to designate an external, independent government agency to review complaints of negligence or malfeasance.
Guess who didn't get the message?
In Mississippi, our State Crime Lab is under the direction of the Department of Public Safety, as is explained here. The main lab is in Jackson, and there are three branch labs across the state. According to the Innocence Project's report, the 4 Mississippi State Crime Labs received a total of $205,298 in FY07. And who would the State Crime Lab name as its external, independent oversight agency?
You guessed it: the Department of Public Safety.
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