The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Tuesday, September 21, 2004, at 10:00 AM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Gross Lindsay, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Robert Stivers, Co-Chair; Representative Gross Lindsay, Co-Chair; Senators Tom Buford, Lindy Casebier, Gerald Neal, Jerry Rhoads, Richard Roeding, Ernesto Scorsone, Dan Seum, and Katie Stine; Representatives Perry Clark, Jesse Crenshaw, Tim Feeley, Arnold Simpson, Kathy Stein, John Vincent, Robin L. Webb, Rob Wilkey, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Linda Carne, Executive Director, Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine; Dr. Diane Vance, Program Director, Eastern Kentucky University Forensic Science Program; Dr. Ben Boggs, Council for Postsecondary Education; Cleve Gambill, Deputy Secretary, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Mark Miller, Commissioner, Kentucky State Police; Laura Sudkamp, Lab Manager, Central Forensic Laboratory; Sylvia Lovely, Interim Executive Director, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Office of Drug Control Policy; Ken Schwendeman, Director, Administrative Division, Department of Criminal Justice Training; Erwin Lewis, Public Advocate, Department of Public Advocacy; Keith Cain, Daviess County Sheriff and President, Kentucky Sheriff's Association; and Charles Korzenborn, Kenton County Sheriff.
LRC Staff: Norman W. Lawson, Jr., CSA; Jon Grate, Chris White, Joanna Decker, and Lisa Fenner.
The first speaker was Ms. Linda Carne, Executive Director of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine who appeared upon the invitation of the committee to explain the program which she directs.
Ms. Carne explained that forensic laboratory backlogs are present throughout the United States and also in Virginia and that while the efforts of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine have alleviated the problem, it still exists.
Ms. Carne detailed the history of the institute from its founding in 1999 to the present.
At present, various state agencies provide assistance and collaboration with the institute, including the Department of Criminal Justice Services, Virginia Department of Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia, and others.
Ms. Carne explained that the mission of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine was to take persons who already had graduate or post graduate degrees in chemistry, biology, medicine, and other related topics, and provide them with advanced instruction in forensic evidence gathering and laboratory techniques through a parallel laboratory experience with instructors being practicing forensic scientists at regular laboratories. Other students include police, pathologists, physicians, and attorneys who wish to enhance their knowledge of forensic science and testing procedures.
The basic training program consists of a fellowship with a one year minimum commitment, which is two-thirds of the time required for state on the job laboratory training and results in a 40 percent savings of the cost of state training. This program frees up regular state laboratory personnel to spend 100 percent of their regular work time on forensic analysis for the state and not having to spend their "bench time" with students. The equipment and facilities at the institute are similar to that of a state forensic laboratory. The instructors are full-time laboratory personnel from state and federal agencies who work on their after-hours time.
The students, upon graduation, are qualified and proficient at the moment of their hiring. Ms. Carne indicated that graduates have a 90 percent retention rate on the job and that last year there were 186 applicants for 17 fellowship positions.
In summing up the pros and cons of the institute's format, Ms. Carne indicated that the pros included being an entrepreneurial partnership with various agencies, and that the program does not duplicate existing university programs in forensic science since the institute takes only graduates of these programs. Cons included the problem of securing faculty, because the faculty is already working full time at a regular forensic laboratory and must use nights, weekends, and other off time to teach at the institute, and securing adequate space and equipment to run the parallel laboratory approach used by the institute.
Ms. Carne indicated that the institute also has several research grants awarded by the FBI, the National Institute of Justice, and other federal agencies.
Senator Roeding asked about the educational background of the students to which Ms. Carne replied that the fellows in the regular program are all post graduate students and that students in the specialized courses and in-service training courses include medical doctors, law enforcement, attorneys, emergency medical technicians, etc. In response to a question from Senator Roeding about dentists and dental identification, Ms. Carne indicated that forensic odontology is part of the regular program and also part of in-service training programs. The institute works with regular schools of dentistry in providing support for the program.
Representative Yonts asked if there was state funding for the program to which Ms. Carne indicated that there was an initial $500,000 matching grant from the state, but that the state does not fund the program. The current program costs $2.9 million per year and the program pays the fellows to come and study. Funding is privately obtained and obtained through grants.
Representative Feeley asked about the students remaining in Virginia to which Ms. Carne responded that although the students come from many states, most have elected to stay in Virginia and are employed by state and federal laboratories. Representative Feeley then asked if the institute worked for the FBI. Ms. Carne responded that while they do not do direct laboratory work for the FBI, they have FBI instructors and have two FBI research grant applications which they feel will be approved shortly.
Chairman Lindsay asked why private industry would fund the institute. Ms. Carne replied that private industry also provides laboratory services under contract to states and that private industry is also in need of the forensic scientists which they train.
Senator Rhoads asked if community colleges, technical schools, and universities were involved with the institute's programs. Ms. Carne indicated that they were not directly involved since the requirement to be a fellow is that one already possess a baccalaureate or higher degree.
The next speaker was Dr. Diane Vance, Director of the Forensic Science Program at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), accompanied by Dr. Ben Boggs of the Council for Postsecondary Education. Dr. Vance and Dr. Boggs also appeared at the invitation of the committee to detail college level forensic science training programs in Kentucky. Dr. Vance explained that Eastern Kentucky University has a degree granting forensic science program centered around either biology or chemistry. She stated that the Eastern program is one of the oldest in the nation, that the number of degree granting programs in forensic science has risen from four to approximately 80 degree granting programs in the United States, that 70 percent of EKU's forensic science majors are women, and that students have come from 22 states. The number of students has vastly increased, but there is a high attrition rate between the first and second years, and that the program currently graduates 15 to 20 students per year with approximately 20 percent of them remaining in Kentucky. Dr. Vance indicated that during the senior year students do an internship in a forensic laboratory in Kentucky or elsewhere. Dr. Vance indicated that the university desires to expand the program, acquire more space, acquire more equipment, replace outdated equipment, and expand into a partnership with the College of Justice and Safety and the Department of Criminal Justice Training.
Senator Stine asked if there are 400 majors and 34 graduates per year, what was the situation, to which Dr. Vance replied that there was an 80 to 90 percent attrition rate between the first and second years. Senator Stine then asked if there is a formal job placement network for graduates, to which Dr. Vance responded that there is an informal network.
Senator Rhoads asked if there was a role for the community and technical college system in providing trained laboratory personnel. Dr. Vance responded that most laboratories require a person with at least a baccalaureate degree, which community and technical colleges do not grant, but that such institutions can feed students to the traditional university programs. In response to a question from Senator Roeding, Dr. Vance indicated that 65 percent of the students in the forensic science program have transferred from community college programs.
The next speakers were Cleve Gambill, Deputy Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, and Commissioner Mark Miller of the Kentucky State Police (KSP). Commissioner Miller indicated that the KSP Forensic Laboratories are now handling 35,000 to 40,000 examinations per year. He stated that the amount of exams are increasing because of enhanced law enforcement, post conviction DNA, and other evidence testing requests. Commissioner Miller announced that the number of solid dose drug tests older than 60 days was now zero, and that in other cases there were only 100 which were older than 60 days. The reduction in the backlog, according to Commissioner Miller, is a combination of additional personnel, temporary outside laboratory testing, improved laboratory procedures and management, and use of the courtnet program to ascertain the status of cases. Through the use of this program, it was determined that 20 percent of the active cases no longer needed laboratory testing, because the case had already been disposed of by a guilty plea. The courtnet system is being constantly monitored to ascertain when cases are dismissed or settled through a guilty plea to avoid conducting unnecessary laboratory testing. Another new development is to provide accurate, simple to use marijuana testing equipment to each state police post, along with training of one or more troopers at the post to properly use the equipment, qualify them to testify in court, and thus relieve some of the burden on the central and regional laboratories. Other advances include cross training of the laboratory analysts in the testing of more than one substance, testing felony cocaine cases first (particularly where there are marijuana or other charges also) since a guilty plea on the cocaine charge generally eliminates the necessity for additional testing. The central laboratory has also brought a retired senior examiner back out of retirement for the express purpose of training and monitoring new laboratory analysts, thus freeing the other analysts to concentrate on testing without having the additional burden of training. Training is now incremental. Marijuana testing training is conducted first since a person can be certified in this field in as little as six weeks, then more advanced and complicated training is added. The laboratory is now testing an exportable methamphetamine test kit which can be used in the field for conclusive methamphetamine testing. They also are attempting to make more use of video teleconferencing to provide court testimony without the analyst having to leave the laboratory. Additionally, peer review has now been assigned to the laboratory supervisors.
Senator Katie Stine complimented the deputy secretary and the commissioner on the improvements made at the forensic laboratories.
Representative Webb asked if the outside testing contracts were ending. Commissioner Miller responded that the contracts will expire at the end of October and that the costs involved were $563,000 in testing and $10,800 for testimony, the costs of which came from the KSP budget.
Chairman Lindsay asked about the alcohol testing backlog. Commissioner Miller replied that there are no cases over 45 days and only 82 regular toxicology cases over 60 days. Chairman Lindsay asked if the department was contacting the prosecutors for information. The commissioner replied that the checking was done on-line with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) courtnet program.
Senator Rhoads asked about recruiting efforts to fill vacant positions. The commissioner replied that at present only five to six forensic positions and several other positions, mainly at regional laboratories, remain open. Deputy Secretary Gambill indicated that similar problems are happening at the Medical Examiner's Office laboratories and that it is very difficult to hire pathologists and other laboratory personnel for that office as well. The demand for personnel nationwide exceeds the supply. Senator Rhoads commended the cabinet for their success in reducing the backlog of cases.
Senator Stivers indicated that he favored the elimination of blood alcohol testing in driving under the influence cases because it is scientifically unreliable, but that it is still useful in parole violation and similar cases. Representative Webb indicated that she agreed with Senator Stivers on the elimination of blood alcohol testing in DUI cases.
The next speaker was Deputy Secretary of Justice and Public Safety Cleve Gambill, who appeared with Sylvia Lovely, Interim Executive Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, and Mr. Ken Schwendeman of the cabinet's Department of Criminal Justice Training. Deputy Secretary Gambill described the two recent reorganization orders issued by Governor Fletcher relating to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Office of Drug Control Policy. Ms. Lovely then spoke of the public drug summits, the report from those summits, and the executive order relating to the role of the Office of Drug Control Policy. She also stated that she is serving as interim director for a period of 90 days until a regular director is appointed.
Deputy Secretary of Justice and Public Safety Cleve Gambill also appeared with Public Advocate Ernie Lewis to describe the memoranda of agreement between the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Department of Public Advocacy, designed to assure that the Department of Public Advocacy is an independent agency assigned to the cabinet for support purposes and outlining the relationship between the parties. Mr. Gambill also described efforts between the prosecutors and the Department of Public Advocacy to increase the use of video teleconferencing in criminal trials when appropriate. Public Advocate Ernie Lewis praised the agreement between the cabinet and the department and indicated his support for it.
Senator Roeding moved and Senator Stivers seconded the approval of Executive Order 2004-730 relating to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. The order was approved by voice vote. Senator Stivers moved and Senator Roeding seconded the approval of Executive Order 2004-994. The order was approved by voice vote.
The next speakers were Daviess County Sheriff Keith Cain and Kenton County Sheriff Charles Korzenborn, representing the Kentucky Sheriff's Association, who spoke in favor of 2004 SB 157 relating to a $10 per hour, plus actual expenses, prisoner transportation fee; 2004 SB 158 relating to increasing the fee for providing court bailiffs to $15 per hour; HB 616 relating to training of bailiffs; and HB 565 relating to sheriffs fees. The sheriffs indicated that the fee increases are needed to keep up with the costs of providing services, to provide fees for increasing numbers of juvenile and adult prisoner transports which must now be borne out of the sheriff's fees for other services, and to provide a living wage for providing bailiffs to the court system. The sheriffs indicated that new bills were being prepared for introduction in the 2005 session, which will be similar to the 2004 session. Discussion then ensued regarding the 25 percent of the sheriffs fees that must be provided to the fiscal court, and the fiscal court not having the obligation to return the full amount of the 75 percent of the sheriff's fees to the sheriff for the operation of the office. Chairman Stivers spoke of the problems of sheriffs in Eastern Kentucky where the federal government owns most of the land and very little money is available to sheriffs to provide much more than office staff.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 PM.