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Probe launched into failure to enter DNA samples into database

An internal probe is underway into why some DNA samples at the state forensic lab were not uploaded into a federal database and why that revelation wasn't made public.

A box of 1,600 DNA samples from convicted felons dating back to 2002 was discovered in 2014. During that period, none of those samples were entered into a sex offender database and checked against unsolved crimes.

The Forensic Science Commission oversees the lab. Commission member and public defender Lisa Schwind said they weren’t told until late last month when the News Journal published a story on the discovery.

Schwind said the DNA taken from defendants after conviction should have been put into the database immediately. She argues this delay may have left over 1,500 victims waiting a decade or more for justice.

“I think it would be an atrocity if someone had to be looking over their shoulder during those 10 years and their case never be resolved,” she said.

The News Journal reported one of the samples could have prevented at least two rapes allegedly committed by a Wilmington man currently indicted for those crimes.

Schwind is calling for an independent review of the situation - and said there may need to be structural changes to the commission if the state crime lab won’t be transparent.

“There were things that happened while it was in this present state and we were not advised of anything so I think more information needs to be given to the commissioners,” she said.

State Rep. Larry Mitchell (D-Elsmere), who is also a commissioner, helped create the commission. He said its members should have been told about the box in 2014. But he supports the internal investigation. He said he expects answers ahead of next year's legislative session.

A Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security spokeswoman said the probe started when the News Journal story came out. Secretary Robert Coupe and the governor’s office declined to comment for this story.

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