Georgia’s district attorney says more money is needed for DNA testing

By TA DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – In the more than 50 years since a murderer took the life of his nine-year-old sister, Melvin Randall and his family have always wondered what happened.

“We were always worried about it and wondering who it was,” Randall said. “It weighed heavily on us for a long time to figure it out [the details] And knowing that it’s over is a huge relief for my family and me.”

Randall said he had not lost hope that authorities would solve the incident involving Debbie Lynn Randall in January 1972. While his mother and father died before learning the truth, Melvin Randall learned who authorities believed was responsible for his sister’s death – William B. Rose of Mableton, who committed suicide in 1974 – thanks to DNA testing and persistence Pursuing a cold case.

$535,000 grant from the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance is helping fund Cobb County’s Cold Case Team, which at the time of the grant had “physical case files” for about 100 unsolved violent crimes, sexual assaults and murders – about 10% of them with a suspect’s DNA . District Attorney Flynn Broady told The Center Square that more money is needed for DNA testing.

“As prosecutors, we have a dual duty, not only to the victim – we protect their rights – but we also have to protect the rights of the perpetrators,” Broady said in an exclusive interview. “When it comes to DNA, it’s important that we have the resources to do it because sometimes DNA can eliminate suspects.”

However, DNA testing and investigating cold cases is a costly affair. GBI’s in-house testing averages about $600 per case, while a provider’s lab averages between $1,000 and $1,900.

“Our GBI lacks the resources for testing, even our drug testing,” Broady said. “That’s why money needs to be put into the GBI to be able to do these things so we can bring people to justice. It shouldn’t take a year for us to get the results of a drug test that simultaneously gives that person the opportunity to either leave the state or get their life together.

“…It’s just a matter of the Legislature saying we’re going to use this amount of money for DNA testing to help us solve crimes,” Broady said. “That’s the biggest problem, and it costs a lot of money because we’re exploiting ourselves to do something that, if we do it right, will bring people to justice, or we’ll make sure people aren’t brought to justice who “I didn’t commit a crime.”

How state officials might push for additional funding is unclear. As with so many issues, officials are reluctant to state their position publicly.

A GBI spokeswoman told The Center Square the agency is still finalizing its funding priority requests.

“DNA testing is an essential tool in solving crimes,” Nelly Miles, director of the GBI’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, said in an email. “Testing is costly, and the Governor’s Office and state legislatures have supported us in providing funding from our previous GBI budgets as well as access to grants for DNA testing.

“We are currently in the budget proposal process and are hopeful and have no reason to believe that this has changed,” Miles added.

Spokespeople for Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who regularly touts his public safety record, did not respond to requests for comment, while a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, declined to comment.

“The lieutenant governor has always supported Georgia’s law enforcement agencies and will continue to prioritize all the resources they need to protect all Georgians,” Ines Owens, a spokeswoman for Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, told The Center Square in a text.

Kemp signed in April House Law 88, the Coleman-Baker Act, which allows families of murder victims to petition authorities to review cold cases. The 2024 state budget included $5.4 million for the agency’s cold case division.