With approximately 250,000 items of sexual assault evidence mired in three- to 12-month backlogs as they await analysis in U.S. forensic laboratories, there is an alarming nationwide need for a time-efficient way to get this work done, according to a University of Virginia forensic researcher.
Jessica Voorhees Norris, a Ph.D. candidate in forensic chemistry at U.Va., has found a better way. She has developed a method for handling rape kit evidence that reduces part of the DNA analysis time from 24 hours to as little as 30 to 45 minutes and improves the sperm cell recovery rate by 100 percent. If her method was to be adopted by forensic labs – and the results accepted by courts – the backlog could potentially be reduced within months.
This is a great development because of the time needed, but the more important change is the improvement of sperm cell recovery. This could help identify unknown assailants and it could help provide material evidence to support testimony about a known assailant.
Too often when DNA analysis doesn't come up with a profile which can be matched to an entry in a DNA database, people will baselessly speculate that no sexual assault occurred. Or worse they will flat-out state that this lack of DNA evidence is proof that no sexual assault could have occurred.
I hope this method can be verified in a timely manner to ensure that the results will be reliable and accepted.