Is Alabama Department Of Forensic Sciences In Shambles? Causing Families Peace of Mind and People To Sit In JailRickey Stokes
Posted by: RStokes
Date: Mar 02 2013 10:29 PM
ALABAMA: Is the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in shambles?
The evidence points to the department is one in shambles. The services rendered by the department has gone from one of excellance to one that has caused pain and anguish for families, one of horror for Coroners across the state. And one of frustration for law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
Director of Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences
The Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Science is Michael Sparks. He is the most secured employee in the State of Alabama.
The appointment for the Director of Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in one made by the Alabama Attorney General. Once appointed, the Director is appointed until his resignation or retirement. The only way the Director can be removed is under proof of an elected District Attorney.
Section 36-18-1 Code of Alabama
There shall be a Director of the Department of Forensic Sciences who shall be appointed by the Attorney General upon certification by the Director of State Personnel as meeting job qualifications specified for this position in the state service. The director may be removed by the Governor only upon such proof as would authorize the impeachment of a district attorney under the laws of this state.
(Acts 1935, No. 225, p. 616, §2; Code 1940, T. 14, §387; Acts 1980, No. 80-591, p. 945, §1.)
That means, once appointed, the Director is that position for life.
Why Do You Say Forensic Service In Shambles?
In Houston County, a lady was arrested for drugs on July 13, 2012. She has remained in the Houston County Jail since her arrest. Today is March 2, 2013. Her case has yet to be presented to a Houston County Grand Jury because the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has never completed the analysis of the drugs submitted.
For six months she has sit in the Houston County Jail. One offense, trafficking, has been a 1 million dollar bond. A bond based on the officer’s “belief” the materials found in her possession are illegal drugs. So far, no forensic proof. If the material found is not an illegal substance, how does this lady get back the 5 months of her life?
In Alabama, all felony cases are required to be presented to a Grand Jury before the felony case can proceed forward in the court system. Drug cases are being held up in the presentation before Grand Jury awaiting the results from Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That means some people are sitting for months in jail on Trafficking cases when in reality the case is a simple possession case.
Families are left in anguish over not knowing the cause of death of their loved ones. The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences tells the Coroner it might be a year before they can give the exact cause of death on some sudden unexpected deaths.
This is a definite decline in service since my involvement with Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in 1977.
My Efforts To Improve Forensics Lost Because So Called Political Leaders Asleep
In 1982, at age 21, I sought election as Houston County Coroner. The people of Houston County elected me to that office. In a field of four candidates, there were 10,000 votes that separated me from my nearest opponent.
My goal was to obtain a Medical Examiner in Houston County and a Forensic Lab in Dothan.
At age 23 or 24, I was elected as President of the Alabama Coroner’s Association and Dr. Robert Brissie, Medical Examiner in Jefferson County, was elected as Vice President.
During my tenure, I worked to get legislation passed to change the lifetime appointment of the Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. The Coroner Association pushed for an oversight committee over the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. We lost that fight and today the Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences remains a lifetime appointment with absolutely no oversight.
Dothan ( Houston County ) Gets Forensic Lab – Now Lost By Our “leaders??”
During my tenure as Coroner, with the help of Henry County Coroner Norman Holman and Dale County Coroner Earl Bankston, we were able to get a Medical Examiner in Houston County and a lab in Houston County.
After several public battles with then Forensic Sciences Director Carlos Rabren, I received a call from Dr. Alfredo Parades. He was leaving SAMC. I then called Rabren and connected he and Parades together. Rabren then hired Parades as a Medical Examiner. He was required to have one year of Forensic Training which he completed in Mobile. After that year Parades returned to Houston County to begin as Medical Examiner serving about 9 counties.
Rabren was shown three possible facilities for the Dothan –Houston County office of Forensics. The three buildings, at Wallace College, facility at Oates Street and Troy Street where Pardons and Parole is currently housed and the facility on North Cherry where they remained for about 15 years.
Things worked great for years. That was until a death in Geneva County that involved a child. The death was concluded as an accidental death. That conclusion was a collective effort of Dr. Parades, Law Enforcement being the Geneva County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ken Tice and Geneva – Dale County District Attorney David Emory.
Family went to the Alabama Attorney General Office when Bill Pryor was Attorney General. The Attorney General empaneled a Grand Jury and sought an indictment for Capital Murder. They got the indictment and the case went to trial.
In opening statements, Defense Attorney Jim Parkman said this case would probably cause Dr. Parades to lose his job as Medical Examiner. That was because he had he integrity to stand up to his findings and testify to his belief of the truth. Parkman said Parades not agreeing with Pryor and the Attorney General’s Office would probably cause Parades to lose his job.
The man was found not guilty. Parkman was right and Parades was forced into retirement from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Because he told the truth and did not bow to the pressure of the Attorney General.
After Parades left, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences had all bodies from Houston and surrounding areas transported to Montgomery or Mobile.
After Pryor left the Attorney General, Dr. Parades came back to work with the state. He resides in Dothan but travels to Montgomery for autopsies. After Parades departure, it was not long before the lab in Dothan, which was being used for testing drugs and other evidence, was closed. The lab tech’s were forced to move from Dothan.
And our political leaders at the time, they sit on their buttocks and did nothing. And today, their lack of standing up for Dr. Alfredo Parades, a man of truth and not willing to change the truth for some elected headline grabbing Attorney General. The political leaders at the time sit on their buttocks and families are being abused by being given answers. Defendants are being held captive in jails awaiting answers from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
And Coroner’s Are Not Told The Truth
There was a death on Friday. Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd was told by Forensic Sciences they had a new policy, no weekend autopsies.
By chance I had called Byrd about the death and he told me. This would cause the family unnecessary delays in funeral and working toward closure.
I called Senator Harri Anne Smith and discussed it with her. She called the Director of Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. While she was talking with him and he was giving excuses on not doing the autopsy in Montgomery, I used my other phone and called the Mobile Office of Forensic. They informed me as long as the body was there by 1 PM the autopsy could be done in Mobile.
While Senator Smith was getting the excuses from the Forensic Director, I told her in her other ear to ask him about Mobile Forensic doing the autopsy. Senator Smith told the Director as long as the body was in Mobile by 1 PM they could do it. CAUGHT!!! She had caught the Director of Forensic Sciences.
The body was transported to Mobile instead of Montgomery. The funeral was on Monday as the family wanted. Coroner Robert Byrd called me during the funeral to say THANKS to Senator Smith. Instead of the family still waiting on Monday for the autopsy, they were having the funeral service because of her efforts. To this day I do not think the family even knows what Senator Smith did for them in the background. With the help of my experience in dealing with Forensic, Senator Smith was able to stop the Forensic Director from further abuse of the families he serves.
Recently a Judge said he understands the backlog is only because Forensics wants some certification. They will ALWAYS blame the decline in service on money.
My blame is management.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences service is declining. And it’s decline causes people peace of mind and days of their lives awaiting answers on high bonds.