The Bluefield Daily Telegraph published this editorial on Dec. 29 regarding a backlog of items awaiting DNA testing at the state’s crime lab:

The backlog of items awaiting DNA testing at the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab in Charleston isn’t a new problem. The crime lab has been dealing with this issue for several years now, and it has been exacerbated by a lack of dedicated laboratory funding to address the backlog.

The current backlog is approximately 1,700 cases. While that is an exorbitantly high number, it is still an improvement from just four years ago when more than 4,886 criminal kits were still awaiting testing.

Temporary funding provided to the crime lab in 2016 to help address this backlog will expire in 2021.

If additional funding is not allocated by lawmakers by that time, staffing and resources dedicated toward the DNA testing will be lost, likely ensuring an even greater backlog in cases.

A policy that limits the number of items that can be submitted for DNA testing in criminal cases was enacted by the crime lab in 2017 to help with the backlog of cases.

The policy specifies that an agency can only submit five evidentiary items, plus the known sample from the suspect, for a total of six in a homicide investigation where there is one suspect and one victim.

But the policy itself became an issue in the recent murder trial of a Mercer County woman accused of decapitation.

Mercer County Sheriff’s Office Det. Logan Addair testified that he could send only six items to the lab for DNA forensic analysis, after the issue was raised by a defense attorney in the case.

The defendant in the decapitation case was ultimately found guilty, and Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said the limitations enacted by the crime lab have not presented any problems for his office.

“It (a limit) only makes sense,” Silter told the Daily Telegraph, adding that in some cases more items can be submitted to the Crime Lab if needed.

One thing is certain. The crime lab needs additional funding, resources and manpower to clear this ever-growing backlog of criminal kits awaiting DNA testing. Lawmakers must take steps during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to address this urgent issue.

Justice is not served when a backlog at the crime lab forces a wait time of months or years for cases to be adjudicated.

Horse killings merit harshest penalty possible

The Daily Independent of Ashland, Kentucky, published this editorial on Dec. 25 regarding the deaths of nearly two dozen horses:

At least 21 horses died after an apparent shooting spree occurred near the Floyd-Pike County line ...

This act of violence is as despicable and senseless as they come. And right here in the Bluegrass State, where horses should be treasured and cherished.

These beautiful animals were evidently hunted, according to authorities.

We won’t make this editorial about hunting, as it can be a positive hobby — and sometimes done for all the right reasons like providing food for a family — for many in Appalachia. But horses aren’t here to be hunted.

Only a psychopath would derive pleasure from ruthlessly killing off defenseless horses, one by one. It’s a crime that should prompt the most severe sentence possible.

President Donald Trump signed a bill making animal cruelty a federal felony — the PACT (Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture) Act — in November.

What would possess someone to commit this unacceptable outburst of violence?

“This is very inhumane and it’s a very cruel act of somebody who just apparently had nothing else to do or whatever just to go back on a strip job and shoot down horses who were, one of them obviously was feeding, had grass in its mouth,” Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt said. “It looked like a battlefield for just horses.”

Some were young and some were pregnant.

Kentucky is the United States’ leading producer of horses. The equine industry has been exceptionally beneficial, economically, throughout the commonwealth’s existence.

Kentucky is most known for the Kentucky Derby, college basketball and perhaps bourbon and tobacco.

The gracefulness of horses encapsulates the beauty of Kentucky.

This inexcusable explosion of violence, again, should be accompanied by the most severe penalty that can be handed down.

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