Daily Archives: March 28, 2011

Governor signs bill to keep criminologists in the lab and out of the witness box

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback today signed a law designed to allow criminologists from the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center to file investigative reports in writing, without having to testify in court.

Backers of House Bill 2057 said it is designed to speed court proceedings and free up more time for investigative work, by giving the criminologist reports from the Sedgwick County lab and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Laboratory the same status in court as the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Highway Patrol.

Lawyers who want to have the county criminologists testify in person will still be able to bring them to the witness stand, officials said.

Timothy Rohrig, director of the Sedgwick County lab, said it will help free up some investigative time and streamline some proceedings, especially when his scientists have to go out of town, but he doesn’t expect a huge impact on the center’s operation.

He said most of the local lawyers already work closely with the lab and are usually willing to accept written reports as evidence.

However, he said it does take his scientists about half a day to testify in court, between their actual testimony and waiting for their turn to speak.

“If you’re four hours down in court, that’s four hours you’re not on the (laboratory) bench,” he said.

The forensics lab performs a variety of duties, including coroner services, DNA analysis and testing to determine whether substances seized by police are actual illegal drugs.

The center employs 37 people. That includes 17 laboratory scientists and three pathologists, who are the ones who testify in court cases, Rohrig said.

Brownback praised the local facilities in a news conference today.

“They do a high quality job and we’re attempting to utilize them on an equal par with the state facilities,” he said.

He added that it will help make investigations more efficient.

“Time issue can be a portion of it, but to me it opens up more options,” Brownback said. “If you’re a DA or a county attorney and you’re close by Sedgwick County or Johnson County and it just makes more sense and you’re used to working with them on something, do it, instead of going to the state laboratory facilities.”

Longwell and Meitzner leading the way with campaign cash

Jeff Longwell, the incumbent in northwest Wichita’s fifth district, and Pete Meitzner, a candidate running in east Wichita’s second district, out-raised their opponents between Feb. 18 and March 24, according to recently filed campaign finance reports.

Longwell raised $16,461 compared to Lynda Tyler’s $3,625. Tyler enters the final days of campaigning with $908. Longwell has $16,301 left to spend. Longwell spent $42,261 defending his seat during the reporting period, while Tyler spent $3,716.

Among people giving a maximum $500 contribution to Longwell are: Key Construction co-founder David Wells, developer Jay Maxwell, attorney Mark Hutton, theater owner Bill Warren and health club owner Rodney Steven II.

Among Tyler’s top contributors are: oilman Wink Hartman, contractor Don Rutherford II, retiree Ronald Davis, retiree James Garvey and retiree John Stevens.

Meitzner drew $43,322 in contributions compared to Charlie Stevens’ $26,926. Meitzner has $21,640 left to spend. Stevens has $17,282. Meitzner spent $32,459. Stevens spent $22,920.

Among Meitzner’s top contributors are: Developer Jay Russell, theater owner Bill Warren, Key Construction co-founder David Wells and developer Dave Burk.

Among Stevens’ top donors are: Attorney Mark Kahrs, investor John McKay, developer Stephen Clark and oilman Wink Hartman.

Campaign finance reports are due at the end the day today.