Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why The California Statute Of Limitations For Rape Must Be Eliminated ASAP

California's statute of limitations for rape are contingent on the timeliness of the processing of DNA evidence.

From KPCC radio:

Nick Roman: The Controller’s audit says the LAPD’s backlog of untested rape kits stands at more than 7,000. It’s doubled in the last five years. There’s no statute of limitations when it comes to rape. So why does it matter that a kit goes untested for a few years?

Here’s why: State law says rape kits must be tested for DNA within two years of the alleged crime. If they’re not, a 10-year countdown starts. That’s how long authorities have to test the kit so the DNA evidence obtained can be used in court.

Once the 10 years runs out, the evidence is useless.

This countdown system is not working if it was meant to get DNA evidence processed quickly. What it is doing is allowing agencies who don't make this DNA processing a priority to allow rapists to escape justice.

Other non-sex crime statute of limitations don't have this same 2-tiered restriction which means that this restriction which changes the statute of limitations for rape based on something other than the severity of the crime has nothing to do with issues of due process or the right to a speedy trial. This is about attitudes related to sex crimes.

The backlog in LA can't be fixed instantly, but the ticking clock can be disarmed instantly by California lawmakers and once it passes the California legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I urge all those in California to contact your state legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger's office before the November election and demand that they diffuse this ticking clock. They have the power to prevent another needless injustice.

This LA Times headline should tell lawmakers, who don't listen to public radio stations like KPCC, everything they need to know about why the statute of limitations for rape in California needs to be eliminated and why all the conditional nonsense related to DNA must also be eliminated. Now.

200 sex assault cases pass prosecution deadline before LAPD tested DNA kits

Since LA received $4 million in grants to pay for the processing of backlogged rape kits, currently about 7000, money is not the problem.

LAPD officials acknowledged that some kits were beyond the legal deadline, but said it was possible that some of those cases had been prosecuted using other evidence. They added that some of the stored DNA evidence may be tied to crimes other than sexual assault.

This acknowledgment is an admission of incompetence and inconsistency. Maybe some of those rapists were convicted anyway. Hey, maybe this problem extends far beyond rape cases.

What will it take to fix both the statute of limitations and the needless backlog? A class-action lawsuit from thousands of rape victims including those who learn that their rapists weren't arrested because one or more rape kits with their DNA weren't processed until the statute of limitations expired?

This is a human rights issue and this backlog impacts not only rape victims who reported and those but those who are wrongfully suspected of rape. It also impacts the victims of those other crimes where the DNA evidence hasn't been processed.

The problem of untested DNA evidence is not unique to the LAPD. Forensic labs throughout the nation have been swamped by demands, not only from regular investigators but also from "cold hit" squads seeking breaks in long-dormant cases and from convicts with claims of innocence. According to U.S. Justice Department statistics, more than 500,000 unsolved crimes, including 169,000 rapes, have untested DNA evidence.

I wish that I were shocked that a half a million unsolved crimes in the US have untested DNA evidence.

Eliminating the statute of limitations for rape in California isn't enough, it needs to be eliminated everywhere. Voters who find this situation appalling need to communicate that this is an issue which will impact who they will and will not vote for.

Once the statute of limitations for rape is eliminated across the board then we need to keep the pressure up related to the processing of rape kits.

This isn't about being suckered by political posturing. It is about looking at effectiveness. If rapists and potential rapists knew that all reports of rape were handled respectfully and promptly who knows how many of those rapists would decide that the odds were no longer in their favor?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:43 AM   0 comments links to this post

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