Archive for June, 2011
Last month we posted about the Cleveland Heights Police Department that failed to test a survivor’s rape kit from 2009. The evidence contained in her rape kit linked to Anthony Sowell, who is currently standing trial for the murder of 11 women in Ohio.
This recent case shines light on the rape kit backlog in Ohio and on the way law enforcement responds to sexual violence. From an article in The Plain Dealer:
Cleveland Heights police say they did not test sexual assault evidence that could have connected another woman’s rape to serial-killings suspect Anthony Sowell in 2009 because they didn’t know they had the evidence. … City officials said they discovered the rape kit among other stored evidence almost two years later when Cleveland police asked for it as a part of their investigation of Sowell [for other charges].
The Plain Dealer reported that the police department sent urine and blood samples to the lab along with the victim’s clothing, but did not submit the actual rape kit, which contained the DNA evidence from the perpetrator.
Only two states–Illinois and now Texas–and some cities–notably New York City and San Francisco–have implemented protocols that mandate that all rape kits are tested in a timely manner, so errors and negligence like More >
We just received the incredible news from Texas that Governor Rick Perry has signed a bill into law that makes Texas the second state in the country, after Illinois, to pass significant rape kit reform. The new law, which takes effect September 1, requires all jurisdictions to count and report all untested kits and requires the Department of Public Safety to develop a plan to test every one of them.
Having this legislation passed in Texas represents an enormous milestone in the movement to end the backlog of untested rape kits. A groundswell for reform is happening. We hope that in the coming year, state legislators from around the country will be inspired by the work of their counterparts in Texas and Illinois. Texas has shown that it is possible to enact rape kit reform, giving survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones the opportunity for healing and justice that rape kit testing brings.
You can read more of our coverage of this process here on the Backlog Blog and our op-ed from last month urging the passage of the bill in the Houston Chronicle. We will keep you updated as there is more news about this historic event.More >
In an article from Hawai‘i last week, “Evidence Ignored in Unsolved Rapes,” Adrienne LaFrance of the Honolulu Civil Beat examines the backlog of untested rape kits in the state’s capital city.
In 2009, the last year for which data were available, 109 cases of the city’s 243 rape cases–or 45 percent–went unsolved and between 60 and 80 percent of the rape kits collected that year–a total of 139–were never to the city’s crime lab for testing.
The lab does not track the exact number of kits it receives each year, according to Michelle Yu, a city spokeswoman, and it is unknown how many of the unsolved cases had untested evidence associated with it. Yu told the Civil Beat that kits are brought to the police evidence property room and stay there unless the lab receives a “work request” from the prosecutor’s office. She estimates that between 30 and 60 sexual assault work requests are submitted to the DNA lab each year.
Supervising Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kathy Kealoha says that budget cuts, increased workloads and lack of a standard protocol on when to send kits to the lab may contribute to the low number of submitted work requests.
But Adriana Ramelli, Executive Director of the More >