DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office is into the second phase of a federally funded project focused on untested rape kits discovered in the former Detroit Police Crime Lab.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy said this multi-agency project is aimed at creating a national blueprint to help prevent more rape kit backlogs in the future.
Assistant Prosecutor Mary Morrow, who heads the project, said several hundred of the rape kits were randomly selected for evaluation in the first segment of the project.
“In phase one, basically the findings were that 46 percent of them had already been adjudicated or the statute of limitations had already run (out). As you probably know, Michigan now has no statute of limitations, no time limit on criminal sexual conduct and rape cases in the first degree,” said Morrow.
The rape kits are about half the size of a small pizza box. They contain documentation, supplies for technicians, swabs and other items to collect samples. They are part of more than 11,000 found in 2009. Nearly 10,000 rape kits still await possible review.
In phase two, more of the back-logged rape kits are being evaluated. Morrow said the team handling the kits is strategic about which ones it sends for testing.
“… are there characteristics of these kits that are readily identifiable, that if tested would give us, or be more apt to give us CODIS hits. So, we’re looking forward to getting the results of that testing and getting those questions answered. We’re also looking forward to working as a collaborative on issues such as advocacy and victim notification,” she said.
CODIS is the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System – a national data base with DNA profiles from criminals, unsolved crime scene evidence and missing persons.
Morrow said the rape-kit testing guidelines have changed since the project began.
“One change that has occurred since this project began is that all sexual assault kits that come into the Detroit Police Department are now referred for testing. There is no longer any discretion that’s involved. If a sexual assault kit is collected it will go to the Michigan State Police crime lab for testing,” she said.
The state police took over the Detroit crime lab in 2008 after it was determined that firearms cases had been improperly handled. A year later, boxes of the kits were found during an inspection.
The goal is to create a national protocol to address the problem, not only in Detroit, but in many major U.S. cities, Worthy has said.
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