Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve by now heard of the roughly 12,000 DNA samples that are missing from the state crime lab’s DNA database. Obviously this is a huge problem, and in the case of accused serial killer Walter Ellis, Ellis’ missing DNA could have kept Ellis from killing his final victim in 2007. There’s been a lot of blame cast over who’s responsible for the missing DNA samples, and much of the blame has fallen on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. While there’s no doubt some blame should fall on the Department of Corrections, I can’t help but wonder if some blame should fall squarely on the state crime lab, and by extension, Attorney General JB Van Hollen.
After all, the state crime lab falls under the purview of Van Hollen in his role as Attorney General, and he even made improving the performance of the state crime lab an integral part of his campaign for Attorney General in 2006:
“Improving the performance of the Crime Labs was the #1 thing the Attorney General could do to help fight crime in Wisconsin.”
Gary Hamblin of the Department of Justice has said the issue does not reside in the crime lab, but rather is a problem stemming from collection of DNA samples, but no matter where the problem stems, why wasn’t more done to track whether the crime lab had all the DNA samples they were supposed to for the DNA database? Why wasn’t a system of appropriate checks in place to ensure the DNA database was not missing DNA samples for felons, and why didn’t JB Van Hollen take the initiative when he was elected to ensure Wisconsin’s DNA database was accurate?
There’s plenty of blame to go around regarding the 12,000 DNA samples missing from Wisconsin’s DNA database, and while Department of Corrections officials may deserve some of that blame, JB Van Hollen should share in the blame.