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State Rep.-elect Kerry Underwood calls for more forensic labs in Alabama

A newly elected state representative and former mayor is highlighting a problem that harms law enforcement investigations across the Yellowhammer State.

State Rep.-elect Kerry Underwood (R-Muscle Shoals) recently joined WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and discussed the need for more forensic labs in Alabama.

“When we have a case of any kind, it could be as serious as a murder investigation, it could be as simple as some sort of DNA that you send out for a much smaller crime, but when we send those off there’s only three forensic labs in the entire state of Alabama,” Underwood said, “north, central, and southern parts of the state, and it takes months to get any data back at all. I’m talking months and months, six to eight months.”

The former Tuscumbia mayor said his prior experience in that office has revealed to him the extent of the problem that slows down these investigations.

“I know of one case here locally … the police department took into Florida because the turnaround time for forensics was so much faster,” he said. “And I don’t think there’s anything that has to be recreated, that just sounds like a funding issue to me.”

Underwood emphasized the need for the Legislature to find a way to get more of these facilities in Alabama.

“We need more forensic labs in this state to process the evidence that has been gathered by the police department,” he argued. “Six to eight months is too long to wait for any type of crime. We’re getting phone calls from families, from the victims families, from everybody related to the case saying, ‘Why are you sitting on this? Why haven’t you done anything yet?’ We’re waiting on the labs, and that’s not what you see on CSI when you’re watching on TV, and everybody expects it to happen same day.”

He explained that there are a few different ways the Legislature could try and tackle the issue.

“I think we need to improve that by allocating funding or looking at how we can run that process differently,” he advised. “It may not be a bill, it may be simply a budgetary consideration, but I do know there’s a need there.”

Underwood was elected to represent House District 3 in November, replacing outgoing State Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals), who opted against seeking re-election in favor of the open State Auditor’s seat.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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