(CBS) — Piles of evidence, critical to getting criminals off the street, sits at the Illinois State Police crime lab. Major delays in testing frustrate crime victims and means some dangerous offenders remain free. Dave Savini and the CBS 2 Investigators look into these delays in this original report.
It starts with gunfire, then critical evidence left behind, including bullet fragments and casings, gets analyzed to catch a killer. However, major delays are plaguing the state crime lab. It has frustrated crime victim family members including Sherry Young.
“You got criminals out here doing things and they’re just getting away with it,” said Young.
Rape kits also are backlogged, angering victims and their family.
“I’m mad as hell,” said the father of a teenage rape victim, who we are not identifying.
This father says his daughter was raped last week. He says he was told the rape kit would be expedited, but could still take four months to get the results. The accused rapist has been released until the testing is complete.
“My 15-year-old daughter is terrified,” said the father.
Also afraid and angry is Sherry Young. Her son Tytus Harris was shot to death. Police sources tell CBS, the crime lab took a year to analyze the ballistic evidence.
The delays are so bad, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Timothy Evans warns there could be a ripple effect.
“We certainly don’t want witnesses disappearing,” said Chief Judge Evans. “We certainly don’t want evidence disappearing. We don’t want it degrading.”
He says justice is being delayed in many cases.
“There’s a backlog of about 9,000 cases in Cook County alone,” said Chief Judge Evans.
The 2-Investigators obtained crime lab records and found, for this year as of July, it is taking an average of 238 days to complete Firearm/Toolmark testing. Rape kits are averaging 281 days to be tested, with 3,378 backlogged.
“Why such a hold up? Why such a hold up,” said the rape victim’s father.
There are seven State Police crime labs across Illinois. Chicago has the biggest load and longest delays, especially with Firearms/Toolmark testing. Last year, 1,809 Firearm/Toolmark cases were delayed a minimum of four months. This year it jumped to 2,142 cases — just in the state’s Forensic Science Center at Chicago.
“Wow that’s a dramatic jump,” said Chief Judge Evans who had not seen the crime lab numbers obtained by CBS 2.
“It is tremendous problem,” said Chief Judge Evans.
“I feel like I’m being tortured every day,” said Sherry Young. “I feel like as long as Tytus doesn’t have justice, I won’t find any peace.”
“I mean justice, it’s all we want, is justice,” said the rape victim’s father.
Chief Judge Evans has been holding meetings — bringing the crime lab, prosecutors, defenders together to end lengthy delays.
An Illinois State Police spokesman says limited resources and sheer number of cases, 395 new ones a day, contribute to the problem. High-priority cases can be turned in hours or days. However that then delays other cases.
Now there is talk of using a percentage of concealed carry fees to help reduce crime lab backlog.