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Criminals go Free While Untested DNA Sits in Storage

By W.V. Fitzgerald     Feb 11, 2009 in World
In Los Angeles, many criminals have gone free for years while untested DNA evidence sat in storage, many of these cases can no longer be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired.
Dozens of Los Angeles detectives from the L.A.P.D. spent weeks going through what was described as a poorly maintained jumble of untested DNA evidence kits going back over ten years in L.A. evidence storage areas. In all, they found DNA evidence (semen, blood and other genetic material) from over 5000 rapes and sexual assaults in storage that had not been tested.
In at least 118 of these cases testing the DNA now may lead to the identity of the perpetrator but no charges can be filed, the statute of limitations has expired. In an additional 403 cases police have no suspects and the DNA could be crucial in leading to an arrest. The remaining 3800 cases have been closed because an arrest was made without the DNA or other reasons.
In an October 29 article on Human Rights Watch that put the number at 7300 cases Sarah Tofte, criminal justice researcher with the US Program at Human Rights Watch said," The rape-kit backlog is not simply a crime-lab capacity problem. The city needs a plan to improve the entire process of investigating and prosecuting rape cases. That is what will be meaningful to victims."
This revelation comes only days after the L.A. County Sharif's department announced that they had discovered 815 untested rape kits in their storage facility with 51 being beyond the statute of limitations. Over 100 more of these cases will expire within six months. Both agencies have been downplaying the seriousness of the problem for the past couple of months until the final counts came in.
L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told Cmdr. Earl M. Shields, "You've got a bunch of evidence sitting there that is potentially a smoking gun, It could be the silver bullet to getting a suspect in a sexual assault case, and it's just sitting there."
Both agencies are in the process of increasing the number of analysts in their labs while considering ways to outsource the backlog, which is expected to take years to clear up.
More about Los angeles, Police, Rape, Dna, Evidence
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