A Hancock County Grand Jury last week recommended -- among other things -- that the state legislature "increase funding and resources to the MS Forensics Laboratory to avoid substantial delays in completing cases and provide timely processing of evidence to ensure speedy trial."
"Hopefully, somebody will do something soon," Hancock Sheriff's Chief Investigator Glenn Grannan said Friday. "It seems to me that forensics is just a step-child (in Mississippi). I don't get it. Think about how important it is. We're spending money all over the place, yet the state crime lab is severely underfunded. There's very little money to actually process evidence."
Grannan said that while "CSI" and other television programs show crime labs filled with employees, there are approximately two to take care of the entire state of Mississippi.
That directly impacts law enforcement agencies in every city and county in Mississippi, he said.
"They're so overwhelmed, it's difficult," Grannan said. "They're so stacked up, not long ago, we were notified they were not going to process any more gun residue. That's the chemical process by which they determine whether someone has fired a gun. If i have a murder or something, I have to send it to a private lab, which gets very, very expensive.
"If you send it to the state and it takes two or three years to process something, you're talking about some pretty sensitive cases that get lost, just because you've violated (the suspect's) right to a speedy trial."
The grand jury also recommended last week that local governments review and evaluate law enforcement salaries and allocate funds to ensure pay is more attractive and competitive with other law enforcement agencies in the state and region.
The grand jury also recommended local law enforcement officers continue receiving education in investigative techniques and evidentiary training, including training in computer forensics and cell phone exploitation.
A new panel is selected for the Hancock County Grand Jury twice a year, meeting as often as necessary over roughly a six-month period to consider criminal prosecutions and other matters required by law. The grand jury is the last stage in a criminal investigation. A total of 20 grand jurors is empaneled for each term. Grand juries determine whether cases from local law enforcement agencies should be indicted, returned to officers for further investigation or dismissed. They also make recommendations on improving a number of different other matters in the county.
The February 2019 Grand Jury last week issued 94 True Bills -- meaning 94 cases would be indicted; 21 No Bills -- meaning 21 cases would not be indicted; passed four cases on to the next grand jury; and returned 31 cases back to law enforcement.
During its tenure, the grand jury toured the Hancock County Adult Detention Center; Hancock County Justice Court; and Hancock County Youth Court.