State of the Backlog
Recently, there has been news of rape kit backlogs in two areas of the country: the greater Denver area in Colorado and the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona.Greater Denver Area, Colorado
On November 11, 2012, ABC CALL7 released the results of an investigation to determine the number of untested rape kits in the greater Denver area. The investigation uncovered hundreds of untested rape kits. Among the findings were that the Denver Police Department has tested only 56% of the 1,064 rape kits it has collected since 2008. The Fort Collins Police Department, about an hour north of Denver, has tested just 28%of the 243 kits it has collected since 2007. Jefferson County has tested only 36% of the 117 rape kits it has collected in the last five years.
Throughout the investigation, police officials reported that their departments believe it is unnecessary to test all rape kits. A commander with the Denver Police explained, “A lot of rape kits we end up doing are just to document the trauma and everything else that occurred.” He went on to say, “No, we don’t test 100% of the cases. Some of those we don’t want to test or don’t need to test.” While detectives decide More >
As officials in Detroit, Michigan are beginning to test rape kits that have been sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities—some for decades—DNA evidence has already linked to multiple possible perpetrators. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has identified 21 potential serial rapists from the first 153 kits that the crime lab tested and entered into CODIS, the national DNA database, according to news reports.
These kits are part of an initial wave of 200 kits that have been sent for testing under the National Institute of Justice’s grant to address Detroit’s backlog of over 11,000 untested rape kits. The DNA evidence in these 21 cases matched to the DNA profiles of suspected offenders involved in at least one other rape case, according to ClickOn Detroit. In some cases, the evidence matched to the DNA in up to five other cases, according to the article.
Testing a rape kit can identify a potential assailant, confirm a suspect’s contact with a victim, corroborate the victim’s account of the sexual assault and exonerate innocent defendants. And of course, testing rape kits can connect suspects to other crimes.
In addition to identifying the possible serial rapists, the DNA evidence in the batch of 153 kits has yielded More >
The following post is a progress report from our GlobalGiving project to end the backlog of untested rape kits. To read this and our previous progress report, and to support this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/end-the-backlog-of-untested-rape-kits-us/.
We are happy to share with you that we have raised more than $5,500 through our GlobalGiving project to continue our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits and bring healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault.
We know that rape kit reform takes time—truly lasting change in the way our criminal justice system and we as a community respond to sexual violence will not come overnight. In our last GlobalGiving report, we gave you an introduction to our work in Detroit to end the city’s backlog of nearly 11,000 untested rape kits and support our collaborative partners through our Heal the Healers program.
Our commitment to end Detroit’s backlog of untested rape kits extends beyond supporting the wellness of police, social workers and prosecutors and today, we’d like to share another brief snapshot of what your funding is making possible.
With the goal of engaging and empowering survivors in the criminal justice system during rape kit reform, we are More >
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced last Monday that a new unit at the state’s crime lab will handle backlogged rape kits. Four newly hired forensic scientists will staff the new unit and are expected to process 1,500 cases in their first year and double that amount in subsequent years.
An eleven-member commission that the Attorney General’s Office convened also recommended a new policy that law enforcement agencies submit any untested kits to a state lab regardless of whether a decision has been made to prosecute. Previously, there had been no policy on submitting rape kits. According to the policy, these developments will ensure the entry of offender DNA into police databases.
Attorney General DeWine expects the amount of kits sent to Ohio crime labs will increase from 50 percent to 90 percent. He said:
“We want to assure victims of sexual assault their cases will not be forgotten. We are determined to bring these rapists to justice.”
While the extent of Ohio’s rape kit backlog is unknown, the attorney general’s office reported it has received 2,000 backlogged cases just from Cuyahoga County so far, which includes Cleveland. Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) currently tests 1,000 rape kits per year and expects that number to More >
During a 2010 audit of the Detroit crime lab, which was shut down in 2008 due to testing irregularities, officials discovered approximately 11,000 untested rape kits in Detroit storage facilities. Following the discovery, a collaborative team of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, researchers and victim advocates came together to work toward eliminating the backlog.
With a grant from the federal government’s Office on Violence Against Women, the team created the “400 Project” to test 400 randomly selected kits from the backlog in order to determine the nature of the evidence and what kinds of cases are connected to the backlog. Among the 400 tested kits was a fourteen-year-old kit containing DNA evidence linking Antonio Jackson, now 38 years old, to the 1997 home invasion and rape of a woman at gunpoint. It is alleged that Jackson broke into the victim’s home at 3:50 a.m. on February 17, 1997, held her at gunpoint and raped her while her children slept in the same bed. He now faces charges of first degree criminal sexual conduct and home invasion and felony firearm charges.
The 400 Project is the first phase in a multi-phase approach to eliminating Detroit’s backlog. Detroit is one of two cities participating in a grant More >