Crime Lab, Circuit Courts Weighted Down in Backlogs

DECEMBER 13, 2004 - Posted at 7:46 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Crime Lab has a backlog of 16,656 cases.  The caseload is so great that the medical examiner is still working on cases from last year.  The backlog may stem from the astronomical rise in methamphetamine cases in Arkansas.  In 1995, there were 24 known meth labs in Arkansas.  Last year, police and federal agents discovered more than 1,200 methamphetamine labs in the state.  Meth testing is a tedious process and 793 pending meth cases have yet to be analyzed.

Meanwhile, the state's overcrowded courts could have three new circuit judgeships next year.  A legislative committee recently recommended the positions.  The Legislature is expected to consider adopting the posts in the 2005 session.  The Judicial Resources Assessment Committee suggested the circuits be added in Saline County and in portions of northeast and north-central Arkansas.  Legislators must decide if the state can afford the new circuit judges.  New circuits typically cost about $250,000.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)