The law that went into effect in March says the evidence from criminal cases must be kept – but doesn’t say where.
Agencies had hoped the Mississippi Crime Lab would preserve and store DNA evidence for them after their cases were resolved.
But the lab doesn’t have the capacity either.
“Maybe in the future we can keep it when we get a (new, larger) place to store it,” state Crime Lab Director Sam Howell said last week. “We don’t have the storage space now.”
Holmes County Sheriff Willie March, newly installed president of the Mississippi Sheriffs Association, said the Crime Lab is the best place to keep evidence no longer needed for active investigations.
“When we get a conviction, as far as we are concerned, the case is over. … We are keeping it in our evidence room, but we don’t know if it’s the right place or temperature for preserving DNA evidence,” March said.
Mississippi’s 82 counties handle DNA evidence in different ways. Some may not collect DNA in all investigations because it is too costly.
The new law says that if DNA evidence is collected as part of the regular investigation into a criminal case, it is to be preserved. The evidence would be kept while the felony crime remains unresolved or the time the person convicted of the crime remains in custody.
There is no specific penalty outlined in the DNA bill for not preserving DNA evidence, but it’s expected that sanctions could be sought in court on behalf of inmates.