Crime & Courts

Bill lets forensic experts report in writing, skip testifying

TOPEKA — A bill to speed up court proceedings by giving Sedgwick and Johnson County forensic examiners an automatic presumption of expertise in their field when they submit reports to courts won approval in the Senate on Wednesday.

House Bill 2057 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 to 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 39-0. 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.