200 cases continued last week

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A backlog in drug evidence testing at the state crime lab led to nearly 200 continuances at last week’s convening of the Covington County grand jury.

A report submitted by jurors to the court stated 457 counts were presented. Of those, 59 resulted in “true bills,” meaning there is enough evidence to proceed to trial; 117 were disposed of prior to the Monday start; and seven were “no billed” or dismissed.

The report stated that of the 247 counts, 197 were drug charges that had to be continued because the Alabama Department of Forensic Science has not produced forensic analyses of the suspected controlled substance.

“That equates to 82 of the 93 – or 88 percent – total cases continued being continued due to the lack of forensic analyses,” the report read. “We strongly encourage the Legislature of the State of Alabama to restore funding to the Department of Forensic Science so that they can have adequate resources and analysts to handle the volume of cases that they are currently confronted with.”

As part of the process, an inspection was held at the county courthouse, jail and board of education building. Of the noted recommendations was the suggestion to increase security upon entering the courthouse and implementing a long-term storage plan. Jurors suggested new parking lot striping at the board of education, while pointing out at the jail that cells were overcrowded and repairs were needed in the work release area and kitchen. Jurors also suggested pay increases for jailers and deputies, the report stated.