A US judge has threatened a laboratory employee with jail due to long delays in DNA testing.

The results of a DNA test are needed as evidence in an American criminal trial for rape, which was scheduled to start next month on December 15. However the lawyers involved in the court proceedings have still not received the results, meaning the trial had to be delayed until April.

The defendant has already been in custody for the last 13 months awaiting his trial and his attorney has said she cannot proceed with the case without knowing the results of the DNA testing, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported.

The judge has now demanded that a member of staff from the lab processing the results comes to the court to explain the delay.

Second District Judge Thomas Kay, who is based in Davis County, Utah, told the court: “I’ve set this trial months and months and months [ago] and the defendant is in custody. This is ridiculous.  I want a human being here who is going to take some responsibility. It means he’s going to, or she’s going to, have [the results] or there’s going to be some good reason that they are not going to jail.”

The defence lawyer involved in the case, Mary Corporon, told The Salt Lake Tribune that problems getting DNA test results in the state were common and frequently delayed court cases.

She said: “The problem is the state of Utah will not allocate enough funds to hire enough qualified scientists and create enough state-of-the-art laboratories to process the quantity of evidence being collected.”

Backlog of samples

Jay Henry, the director of Utah’s state crime lab, said that his staff were struggling to work through a huge backlog of samples taken from alleged victims of rapes and sexual assaults and had had to send many of their tests to other laboratories.

He said: “Right now, our turnaround time isn’t the best. We’re at over a year right now [on average] with our turnaround time.”

But he said steps were being taken to reduce the amount of time it takes to process results to between 60 and 90 days.

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