State Lawmakers Consider Closing Huntsville Forensics Lab

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The office in charge of performing autopsies for all north Alabama counties could soon shut down. State lawmakers are considering cuts to forensics labs across the state. Those cuts could take away the huntsville lab altogether. WHNT NEWS 19 spoke to Madison County's coroner about his concerns.

The forensics lab in Huntsville does everything from investigating drug cases to performing toxicology tests.

Its staff also does autopsies on bodies from 22 north Alabama counties.

Madison County Coroner Craig Whisenant says it's these services that provide vital information.

"We depend on the local lab to prove our death investigation services as far as autopsy and examinations that are carried out for our residences here in north Alabama," said Whisenant.

State lawmakers are working on a state budget suggesting cuts to Alabama Department of Forensics.

Whisenant is concerned police will spend less time on patrol and more time commuting to the state capital if the the lab closes.

"It would be three hours to Montgomery, three hours back and the next day three hours to Montgomery and three hours back," added Whisenant.

Madison County's coroner is also concerned about the impact this will have on investigations.

"We're going to lose that face-to-face interaction that we have here with the staff locally," added Whiesnenat.

Whisenant says families won't likely get possession of their loved one's body for at least three days if the Huntsville lab closes.

Limestone and Madison County State Senator Bill Holtzclaw is against closing the lab.

"We're going to continue to work to do everything we can to keep that lab fully funded and operational," said Sen. Holtzclaw.

Senator Holtzclaw says the lab is important to the state, not only for its case workload, but also the way it operates.

"You have an incredible and efficient operation. It is co-located with the Department of Public Safety. It has incredibly low overhead operational costs," added Sen. Holtzclaw.

State Senator Paul Sanford is also working to keep the lab open. He has asked police, districts attorney and others in law enforcement to write letters of support.

Sen. Sanford recently gave the Huntsville forensics lab $25,000 to use on operational costs. The senator was able to get the money through a grant.

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