Thursday, June 05, 2008

Alabama's Changing Backlog Of Unprocessed Rape Kits

From NBC 13:

Alabama forensic experts are staring down hundreds of back logged rape kits. Right now - it can take up to a year to process the average rape kit in Alabama - and that's actually a big improvement: Just recently the average wait was three years. It comes down to money. With the recent downturn in the economy, DNA experts are warning wait times are on their way back up. [...]

In 2005, there were more than 900 untested cases. The average wait for results - 2-3 years. Now, the back log sits at 275 cases and the testing wait is six months to a year. Della Manna's team is also committed to processing older kits that were forgotten when the back log started building.

They have unprocessed rape kits that date from 1990. That means some rapes which had solid evidence may have been sitting dormant for 18 years. Unfortunately, the recent reduction of this backlog may halt or even reverse because of expected budget cuts.

This problem highlights more than budget problems, it highlights priorities. Many rapists -- including those viewed as dangerous by even the worst victim-blamers -- escape justice either temporarily or permanently because convicting them isn't truly a priority from the grassroots level to legislative bodies.

In Reno after the abduction and murder of Brianna Dennison, private citizens raised money to process the backlog of their local DNA evidence in the hopes that the man who murdered a college student and who raped other students in Reno was in the system somewhere and had his DNA associated with his name.

We shouldn't have to wait for more horrific crimes such as this for these backlogs to become a real priority.

If his DNA is in a rape kit in another state waiting to be processed, the lack of priority and funding may allow this murderer to kill again when a different priority and adequate funding could have resulted in this man being in custody today. Even if the DNA wasn't associated with a name it would give investigators another important clue because they would know where are when this murderer was in a known location outside of Nevada.

This is why technical developments including the work of a grad student who developed faster processing of DNA evidence, which reduces analysis time from 24 hours to under an hour, are so important and why these developments need to centrally supported by the federal government including providing the needed funding.

With this sort of backlog -- which is undeniable -- too many people still whine about how unfair the criminal justice system is to those accused of rape and they whine about how legislation such as VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) hurts men. Yeah, prosecuting rapists in a timely manner does hurt men -- men who rape.

Timely evidence processing and prosecution also clears innocent men who are wrongly identified as the prime suspect for a rape or for a rape/murder in a timely manner. Yet many so-called pro-men policies let wrongful suspicions hang over the heads of innocent men until years or decades later when the DNA evidence finally clears them. If a trial goes (or went) forward without DNA processing of collected evidence because of the backlog then that supports wrongful convictions and large settlements to the innocent if that DNA evidence is ever processed.

This backlog means that a lack of criminal charges against those accused of rape in Alabama means nothing, but I'm sure many of those rightfully accused of rape spin lack of charges into proof that the allegation is false.

Many times when someone who previously reported rape is raped again the previous case is called proof that the alleged rape victim is a proven liar when it is proof of nothing.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:14 AM   0 comments links to this post

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