About 25 West Virginia legislators received a tour of the Marshall University Forensic Science Center Monday, Nov. 26, to gain firsthand knowledge about its academic program and the forensic services provided to law enforcement within the state and the nation.
The delegation received a tour of the nationally accredited forensic DNA laboratories and the West Virginia State Police Digital Forensics Unit housed at the Forensic Science Center
Legislative representatives included the chairs of Subcommittee B of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary, Sen. Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) for the senate and Delegate Meshea Poore (D-Kanawha) for the house, and other committee members.
Snyder said forensic science, law enforcement and the judiciary are critical areas. "I was supportive of Marshall's forensic science program and services prior to the tour," he said, "but after seeing how the center operates and learning more about its activities, I am extremely supportive of the great things the Forensic Science Center is doing."
The tour was a follow-up on a presentation to Subcommittee B of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary given by Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of the Forensic Science Center, in June about the operation and management of the center.
Other legislators in attendance included Sen. Roman Prezioso (D-Marion), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and local legislators Sen. Evan Jenkins (D-Cabell) and Delegate Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell).
Jenkins said Marshall's Forensic Science Center is special to him because he worked on the CODIS legislation more than a decade ago and was one of the first to get involved to get the initiative established. "Dr. Fenger put us on the world map," he said. "The challenge now is to continue support and growth and keep homes and kids safe. It deserves our full support."
Fenger said it was an honor to have the legislators visit the center and to have the opportunity to discuss the issues, importance and impact of forensic science education and casework done in the labs.
Poore said the Marshall University Forensic Science Center is nationally recognized as a model for the nation for its laboratories and how to handle forensic science data. "We felt it necessary for members not only to hear about it but actually see the good work being done and find out how the Legislature can help."
Cpl. Robert J. Boggs, a West Virginia State Police Digital Investigator stationed at the West Virginia State Police Digital Forensics Unit, said getting legislation on "sexting" passed is one of the ways the Legislature can help officers in the lab offset caseloads regarding child pornography investigations.
Last year Poore introduced sexting legislation. She said she is excited about introducing it again this year after receiving feedback that West Virginia state troopers are interested in the legislation. "I look forward to working with members of the West Virginia State Troopers Association and the Marshall University lab to get a strong piece of legislation passed regarding the sexting topic," Poore said.
Poore added West Virginia is "getting it right" through helping other states through forensic science training and analysis, and it needs to be recognized.
Sobonya sponsored the Internet Child Protection Act, House Bill 4492, which passed in 2004. The act made it a felony for child predators to solicit children over the Internet and enabled law enforcement to charge predators before they make physical contact with children. "It was good to hear from Cpl. Boggs that the law helps law enforcement go after predators before they have contact with children," she said.
Marshall's Forensic Science Center is one of the best kept secrets in Huntington and is a model for the nation, Sobonya added. She worked with the Forensic Science Center previously on providing training for sexual assault nurse examiners to develop continuity and uniformity in the way DNA is collected from sexual assault victims. "It is important to protect the integrity of DNA samples so they are admissible in court," she said.
The embedded video below is a commentary by Dr. Terry Fenger regarding the approximately 25 West Virginia legislators who toured the Marshall University Forensic Science Center. The legislators came to learn more about MUFSC's academic program and the forensic services provided to law enforcement within the state and the nation. This video is part of the Marshall University Communications YouTube Channel.
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Reprint of Marshall Magazine Spring 2012 Issue used by permission.