Sedgwick County forensic scientists get some respect in House vote

TOPEKA — In one of its first official acts of the Legislative session, the House of Representatives today passed a bill to free Sedgwick and Johnson county forensics examiners from the need to prove their expertise every time they file testimony in court.

House Bill 2057 is designed to speed court proceedings by giving the criminologists from the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Laboratory a presumption that they have expertise on subjects on which they testify and that their reports are automatically admissible in court.

At present, criminologists from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Highway Patrol already have that presumption of expertise, said Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, chairwoman of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, which introduced the bill.

If the county labs are added, defense attorneys would still be able to challenge the examiners’ credentials and the admissibility of evidence they provide in court.

But the examiners won’t have to go through the time-consuming process of going to court and outlining to their degrees and relevant experience every time they submit testimony, according to an analysis of the bill by the Legislative Research Department.

“The bill could reduce costs in Johnson and Sedgwick counties as the scientists could submit the reports and certificates in lieu of traveling to and spending time in court, allowing them to allocate more of their time to the completion of additional examinations,” the analysis said.

Rep. Melody McCray-Miller, D-Wichita, the ranking Democrat on the Corrections Committee, spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor.

She said the bill would increase efficiency and “do a positive good for the state of Kansas.”

The bill now will move to the Senate for consideration.