Under the Lens: A look inside the Mississippi Crime Lab

JACKSON, MS (WDAM) - Crime scene investigation television programming has risen in popularity over the years, but according to local experts, the accuracy of the programs is...lacking.

According to Sam Howell, the Director of the Mississippi Crime Lab, television portrays forensic science in a false light.

"Part of the issue with television is that they have a limited number of characters. They are police officers who investigate and they interview their witnesses, and they also do the crime laboratory analysis," said Howell. "That's just not how it happens.

According to Howell, the process after the crime scene is a time-consuming team effort.

"Usually the law enforcement agency will deliver evidence to the crime lab; we actually touch over 6,000 pieces of evidence per month," said Howell. "It comes in, we literally barcode it; it's assigned to the section, and then they will get it from the vault and perform the analysis."

The crime lab handles on any given day evidence from cases ranging from DUI's to homicides from around the state.

"Well, it's hard. We have four laboratories with 97 employees in the four labs," said Howell. "We are an integral part between the crime scene and the court process because no one is going to get convicted or even tried without that evidence being analyzed through the crime laboratory system."

For several years, the crime lab was overwhelmed, but Howell said the lab is now better than ever.

"For years we were backlogged. We were sort of behind the investigative process," said Howell. "Currently, we are part of the investigative process."

According to Howell, the new state-of-the-art facility for the crime lab is under construction, and will make forensics even stronger in Mississippi.

"We have designed a 93,000 square foot facility that we are hopeful we will be in  by the end of the year," said Howell. "We'll have one of the high end, technologically advanced crime laboratories in the country."

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