Archive for December, 2011
FBI Director Robert Mueller has announced that the agency will update its definition of rape, taking effect in the spring of 2012. The FBI currently defines rape as the “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” As we have noted before, experts consider this definition to be too narrow, and it leads to the under-reporting of thousands of sexual assaults across the U.S. each year.
An FBI advisory board voted on December 6 to expand the definition of rape and sent the final decision on to Director Mueller. While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mueller explained his support for updating the definition:
“That definition was in some ways unworkable, certainly not applicable—fully applicable—to the types of crimes that it should cover.”
The new definition states that rape is “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” In updating its terminology, the FBI removed the requirement that a rape involve force and expanded its reach beyond only female victims.
The updated definition of rape will allow local law enforcement agencies to report more sexual assaults to the federal 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 >