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Oakland County looks to expand crime lab to analyze DNA

Oakland County could soon help ease a statewide backlog of DNA evidence that in some cases has delayed the prosecution of criminal cases.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard says years of work to upgrade his crime lab have paid off. The lab has been certified by a national group to handle DNA evidence. And Bouchard says that will allow the county to apply for federal grants to make final preparations and hire staff to do the work.

Bouchard says the backlog at the state labs that process DNA evidence now means it can take too long to get results. He says in one rape case, it took eight months for the evidence to be processed. And when it was, the DNA identified a suspect:

"The real-life implication of that is, there were two more sexual assaults by this person in the interim while we waited."

The backlog of cases waiting to be processed at state labs has gotten worse since 2008. That’s when Detroit’s forensic lab was shut down after a State Police audit found a high error rate in ballistics evidence.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.