Spencer, who is going on trial for the crash resulting in Shumaker’s death, has been free on bond since a few days after the crash.
The long turnaround time for criminal cases is nothing new for our state. The seven Michigan State Police crime labs are underfunded and short-staffed.
The problem substantially escalated in 2008, when the Detroit lab was shut down and denied accreditation, forcing the remaining state labs to pick up the slack.
There is currently a backlog of nearly 10,000 unsolved cases in Michigan. At the start of 2010, that backlog was more than 19,000 cases. That number doesn’t include the nearly 11,000 unprocessed rape kits.
While the numbers are going down, they are still far from acceptable.
The real issue is the turnaround time. Severe backups significantly slow down an investigation. In some cases, it’s taking up to 15 months to process the evidence and deliver justice.
This problem delays closure for victims and their families. It also delays the protection of the public until the suspect can be properly identified and prosecuted.
In too many cases, criminals are out on bond roaming the streets until their trial date finally arrives.
In addition, how many innocent people remain behind bars while evidence that could set them free sits tucked away in a storage facility at a crime lab, waiting to be processed?
Fortunately, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a 16 percent funding boost for state police from the state's general fund surplus. Part of that money would be used to add more staff to crime labs.
Let’s hope it’s enough to solve this problem. Our safety and peace of mind depend on it.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.