DELTA TWP. (AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday signed into law timelines and processes for testing rape-evidence kits, a move backers said will ensure Michigan avoids encountering a backlog of the magnitude discovered after it took over Detroit’s crime lab five years ago.
“Let’s never have a backlog again,” Rep. John Walsh, a Livonia Republican and sponsor of the bill, said before the governor signed it at the Michigan State Police’s crime lab just outside Lansing. “Simply put, that’s what this legislation is about – just making sure somebody is responsible.”
The law is a result of the 2009 discovery of more than 11,000 untested sexual assault kits recovered from a Detroit police storage facility.
It requires police to obtain a rape-evidence box from a health care facility within 14 days of being notified. The police will have 14 more days to submit the DNA to a lab, where it will be analyzed within 90 days if there are “sufficient staffing and resources.”
“In these situations, let’s move promptly. Let’s get evidence tested and let’s hopefully go after effective prosecutions where the law has been broken and people have been violated,” said Snyder, who was joined at the bill-signing event by law enforcement leaders and advocates.
The state police lab’s average laboratory turnaround time is 53 days, which is below the 90-day timeline established in the new law, Snyder said. The goal is to have no more than an average 30-day backlog among all evidence sent to state forensic labs, said State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue.
Of the 11,300 kits found in Detroit, about 2,000 were submitted for testing thanks to a federal grant and private donations, and others were deemed invalid.
The state last year allocated $4 million to test 8,000 remaining kits, and 600 have been processed so far. The remainder should be done by next May, Snyder said.
“This is a really powerful message … in letting victims know that they matter and they are not alone,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board.
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