Desoto County News

Barton pushes for more help to process drug crimes

Photo: District Attorney Matthew Barton and Jordan Brumbleow of the DA’s office with Hernando police cases the DA’s office could not continue prosecuting because of the state crime lab backlog. (Bob Bakken/

DeSoto County supervisors Monday took a step toward addressing a huge backlog of DeSoto County cases clogging the drug crime lab in Batesville.  Their decision came after DeSoto County District Attorney Matthew Barton suggested that two forensic scientists be hired and added to the drug crime lab facility. The additions would be committed to DeSoto County cases only. 

Barton and Jordan Brumbelow with the District Attorney’s office brought with them two containers totaling 40 cases from one day with the Hernando Police Department that could not continue. Barton said the crime lab had taken too long to process the evidence, so prosecution of the case could not continue.  

“Our state crime lab system is inadequate to keep up with the demand of our cases,” Barton said. “We have a lot of drug cases that get sent to the crime lab and because of their backlog, and they’re short staffing and lack of resources, these cases end up being delayed and when they take too long, we run into issues prosecuting. We just had to pick and choose which cases we prosecute and that’s a problem.”

The state crime lab in Batesville is where the vast majority of DeSoto County cases are sent, with a few exceptions.  Sometimes, agencies have had to resort to private crime labs at a great expense on matters of elevated importance. 

Barton has proposed the additional forensic scientists as a precursor toward a future crime lab facility in DeSoto County. For now, he is proposing an interlocal agreement between the cities and the county to fund the forensic scientists assigned to DeSoto County cases only. 

“We’ve talked with the Department of Public Safety and they are in agreement that we can use their facilities and resources and house our employees there to work just on our cases,” Barton said. “That’ll at least help us to address the backlog immediately while we hopefully move towards building our own crime lab or drug lab in DeSoto County.”

It is estimated that salaries, benefits, and everything involved would amount to about $235,000, to be shared between cities and the county. Along with the interlocal agreement, supervisors asked for a memorandum of understanding between the District Attorney’s office and the Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab outlining the arrangement to have the forensic scientists operating in DPS facilities to work exclusively on DeSoto County cases. Both parts of the motion were approved by the supervisors.

Supervisor Robert Foster looks at the DeSoto County crime lab as a step other counties will take notice of.  

“We would be on the leading edge, moving toward our own crime lab, a huge difference in fighting crime,” Foster said.