Senate passes bill to speed court cases; allows forensics experts to testify in writing

TOPEKA – The state Senate today approved a bill to speed up court proceedings by giving Sedgwick and Johnson County forensics examiners an automatic presumption of expertise in their field when they submit reports to courts.

House Bill 2067 would allow criminologists from the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Laboratory to submit reports on their investigations into evidence in writing, without having to come to court and testify.

Supporters of the bill say such personal testimony is often lengthy – taking technicians away from their investigations – and that it’s redundant to have them testify to their qualifications in case after case.

Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas Bureau of Investigation technicians already enjoy the presumptions of expertise that the bill would bestow on the Sedgwick and Johnson county technicians.

The county labs are “very state-of-the-art,” said Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and carried the bill on the floor. “This does make a lot of sense and will shorten trials.”

Lawyers would still be able to compel personal testimony and challenge the admissibility of forensic evidence, or the technician’s qualifications, if they so choose, Owens said.

The bill passed the Senate by a unanimous 39-0 vote. The Senate did not amend the version passed earlier by the House so it will go straight to Gov. Sam Brownback to be signed or vetoed.