High-profile cases pushed to top of state police crime lab backlog heap
A spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety said yesterday district attorneys will take the lead on pushing high-profile cases, such as the Neil Entwistle double-murder trial, forward as it deals with a massive backlog of DNA evidence.
Spokesman Charles McDonald said state police officials, along with district attorneys and other stakeholders, are developing new procedures on dealing with forensic evidence, but he wasn't sure when those would be ready.
The office released a commissioned study earlier this month that found as many as 16,000 biological samples dating to the 1980s that had gone untested. The study came after reports of problems with DNA testing at the crime lab.
Attorney General Martha Coakley disputed the report of a 16,000-case backlog, but Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke believes prosecutors are using semantics to downplay the numbers.
In a statement earlier this week, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone said he doesn't believe the backlog, which includes about 2,000 active cases, 4,000 sexual assault kits and 10,000 cold cases, will slow down the proceedings in the Entwistle case.
“The Entwistle case is proceeding in the normal course and the trial date is still scheduled for October,” said Leone in the statement. “We fully expect to be ready for trial at that time.
“We have not asked for, nor do we anticipate asking for, a continuance in the trial date. We also do not anticipate that the scientific forensic testing being done in this case would be a reason for a continuance in the trial,” said Leone in the statement.
That stance stands in direct contrast to statements made this week by Eliot Weinstein, Entwistle's attorney, who said he will push for an independent review of all DNA testing in the case, which he believes will trigger a delay.
Entwistle is accused of shooting his wife and infant daughter in their Hopkinton home. The bodies were found under blankets in a bedroom. The case created an international buzz when he fled to his parent's home in England and was later arrested on murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Efforts to reach Weinstein this week were not successful.
McDonald, who said he could not comment on specific cases, said he does not know of any provision in the new regulations that will push high-profile cases to the top of the priority list.
“The district attorney's offices will be setting the priorities,” he said.
Craig MacCormack of The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be reached at 508-626-4429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.