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2B E3 USA TODAY—SPRINGFIELDNEWS-LEADER FRIDAY,JULY17,2015 PRESIDENTAND PUBLISHER John Zidich EDITOR IN CHIEF David Callaway PRESIDENT, AD VER TISING SALES Randy Kilgore 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, Va. 22108, 703-854-3400 Published by Gannett The local edition of USA TODAYis published daily in partnership with Gannett Newspapers Advertising: All advertising published in USA TODAYis subject to the current rate card; copies available from the advertising department. USA TODAYmay in its sole discretion edit, classif y , r eject or cancel at any time any advertising submitted. National, Regional: 703-854-3400 Reprint permission, copies of articles, glossy reprints: or call 212-221-9595 USA TODAYis a member of The Associated Press and subscribes to other news services. USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are registered trademarks. All rights reserved. USA TODAYis committed to accuracy. To reach us, contact Standards Editor Br ent Jones at 800-8 72707 72707 3 or e-mail accu- Please indicate whether you’re responding to content online or in the newspaper. Corrections & Clarifications After 18 years without justice, Joanie Scheske believed the man who raped her would never be caught. Then, the St. Louis police called in 2009. Evidence in a separate, separate, 8-year old sexual assault was finally tested and matched her attacker’s DNA. Rapist Mark Frisella, whose attack attack was so brutal Scheske still su ers from epilepsy, is serving 19 years in prison. “I had a really di cult time wrapping my head around why that rape kit was never tested,” Scheske said. AUSA TODAY Media Network investigation has found similar evidence in tens of thousands of rape kits neglected by police around the country. Records obtained from more than 1,000 police departments i denti fi ed at least 70,000 sexual a ssault kits containing evidence f rom reported rapes and other s exual o enses that were never s ent to labs for testing. Despite its s cope, the agency-by-agency count covers a fraction of the nation’s nation’s 18,000 police departments, s uggesting the number of abandoned abandoned rape kits reaches into the hundreds of thousands. The kits contain forensic evidence evidence collected from survivors in apainstaking and invasive process process that can last four to six hours. Testing can yield DNA evidence that helps identify suspects, bolster bolster prosecutions or in some cases exonerate the wrongly accused. The investigation found widespread widespread inconsistency in how police police handle rape evidence and failures at all levels of government government to solve the problem. Records Records obtained from requests in all 50 states revealed: u Most states and most police agencies have no written guidelines guidelines for processing sex crime evidence. evidence. Decisions often are left to the discretion of investigating of- ficers. Some agencies test every r ape kit. Others send as few as t wo in 10 to crime labs. u Many thousands of untested k its are accumulating almost un- n oticed at rural and smaller-city departments. u Although uploading o enders’ enders’ information into DNA databases databases can help identify serial predators who move across jurisdictions, jurisdictions, police often treat rape kits as if the evidence is relevant only to a single assault. u At least 50 law enforcement agencies — from Montgomery, Ala., to Reno, Nev. — have never c ounted untested rape kits in t heir evidence rooms. Most states haven’t undertaken an inventory. u The U.S. Department of Justice Justice is failing to comply with a 2013 law meant to get more evidence evidence tested and set standards for processing rape kits. For rape survivors such as Scheske, the accumulation of untested untested evidence is more than abstract abstract statistics. “Every single one of those rape kits is a person and family and f riends,” she said. “It’s like a b aby’s mobile: You touch one piece, and it moves all the others. It’s not just one person. Everyone t hat their sphere of influence t ouches is a ected by what hap- p ens to a victim.” DISCRETION QUESTION NO CONSISTENCYIN DECISION TO TESTOR STORE EVIDENCE Debbie Smith of Williamsburg, V a., is one of thousands whose cases were solved by DNA analy- s is. After a masked man invaded her home in 1989 and raped her —threatening to come back and kill her if she told anyone — she lived in constant fear for more than six years. Smith remembers the day she was told a DNA match identified her attacker. He was already behind behind bars in Maryland for anoth- e r crime. “It was the first time in those 6½ years that I took a del del iberate breath. I wanted to b reathe. I wanted to live.” The inconsistent analysis of r ape kits persists even as compre- hensive testing in some cities — including New York, Cleveland and Detroit — has demonstrated t he power of the previously un- u sed evidence to identify assailants, assailants, con fi rm the accounts of s exual assault survivors or exon- e rate the wrongly accused. The results showed the discretion discretion investigators have over whether to test rape kits has often often been misused, said Sarah Haacke Byrd, managing director of the Joyful Heart Foundation, a group pushing for testing of all kits tied to reported sexual assaults. “Time and time again, we have seen that law enforcement fre- q uently disbelieves victims when t hey’re seeking help from law enforcement,” enforcement,” she said. Mandatory testing “takes discretion out of the hands of law enforcement.” COLD HITS TESTING EVIDENCE, EVEN YEARS LATER, IS RESOLVING RAPE CASES It took more than a decade for Michael J. Brown to face justice for the rape of a school-age girl at a New York City apartment comp comp lex. On Aug. 6, 1993, Brown followed followed the girl inside a Queens a partment building. He placed h is hand over her mouth and ab- d ucted her, taking her to the rooftop, rooftop, where he raped her and knocked her unconscious with a brick, according to court records. The girl was taken to a hospital, hospital, where she was interviewed by police and a rape kit was prepared. prepared. For nine years, that evidence evidence sat in a freezer among a t rove of 16,000 untested rape kits held by the New York City Police D epartment. In prior decades, the evidence had little value unless new leads emerged. DNA technology advanced, advanced, and state and federal governments governments built o ender databases. Police and policymakers policymakers saw value in analyzing the evidence. evidence. In the late 1990s, the NYPD s pent $12 million to send every kit to a private lab for analysis. A bout 2,000 matched DNA in off off ender databases — “cold hits” as police call them. One of the m atches: Michael Brown. H is DNA had been entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index Index System (CODIS) database after after an unrelated crime in Maryland. The DNA match led to his indictment in 2003 for the New York girl’s rape. He was convicted convicted in 2005. O ther cities and states fol- l owed New York’s example and t est all rape kits. New laws and c hanging attitudes have led to C ODIS matches resulting in t housands of new investigations and hundreds of indictments — many involving serial o enders t ied to sex crimes in di erent parts of the country. Testing by Cleveland-area prosecutors linked more than 200 alleged serial rapists to about 600 assaults. Statewide, Ohio Attorney Attorney General Mike DeWine’s e ort to collect and test rape kits has resulted in at least 2,285 CODIS CODIS hits. In Houston, analysis of about 6,600 untested rape kits resulted in about 850 matches, 29 prosecutions prosecutions and six convictions. Since Colorado began requiring requiring police statewide to submit rape kits for testing last year, more than 150 matches have been found. Still, many police agencies haven’t changed policies. Forty-four states have no law stipulating when police should test rape kits, and 34 states haven’t conducted a statewide i nventory. “ We need to have a full accounting accounting for the state of what’s l eft, what hasn’t been tested, why i t hasn’t been tested and just clear it up,” said New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, Rosenthal, a Democrat, who introduced legislation that would require an inventory. The bill has yet to make it out of committee. The state Department of Criminal Criminal Justice Services started a survey survey of 213 police agencies after questioning from USA TODAY. REASONS WHY WHYPOLICE SAYTHEY DON’TTESTEVERYKIT Interviews with law enforcement enforcement o cials and a review of case records reveal rape kit testing is often arbitrary and inconsistent between agencies and even within within agencies. In Jackson, Tenn., records show contradictory reasons why rape kits were not tested. I n some cases, the Jackson Pol Pol ice Department did not test evidence evidence because the suspect’s identity was already known. In o thers, records show police de- c ided not to test kits because t here was “no known suspect,” even though testing the kits could help identify a suspect. Law enforcement o cials said the most common reason kits are not tested is there is not a prosecutable prosecutable case, usually because of a lack of cooperation from victims. That’s not a valid reason to jetti- s on forensic evidence, said Mai Fernandez, executive director of t he National Crime Victims Center Center in Washington. Some survivors survivors may fear retaliation if they press charges. “The victim might not decide that they want to go forward with the case, but they might decide later on that they do,” Fernandez said. “Or if there’s enough circumstantial circumstantial evidence, including t he kit, a jurisdiction could decide to go forward without the victim.” S ome government o cials and r esearchers faulted police for a predisposition to doubt survivors’ s tories. “ The fact is that often rape kits are unsubmitted for testing because because of a blame-the-victim mentality mentality or because investigators mistrust the survivor’s story,” Illinois Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan Madigan told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in May. After more than 10,000 untested untested sexual assault kits were discovered discovered in Detroit in 2008, a landmark study funded by the Justice Department exploring the causes of the failure to test evidence evidence faulted police for “negative, victim-blaming beliefs.” “Rape survivors were often assumed assumed to be prostitutes, and therefore, what had happened to them was considered to be their own fault,” researchers from Michigan State University wrote. FAILURE TO ACT CONGRESSIONAL FIX IGNORED Many law enforcement o - cials are adamant in their defense of leaving some kits untested. At about $1,000 per kit, o - cials said, submitting a rape kit for testing unnecessarily could divert divert resources from other needs or delay testing of evidence in cases where the need is more u rgent. “ The kit itself isn’t always the b est science or the best evidence t o a case,” said Sgt. Trent Crump, s pokesman for the Phoenix Pol Pol ice Department, which has accumulated accumulated 1,782 untested rape kits since 2000. A growing number of advocates advocates push universal testing. “I think that in cities that have started testing all of their backlog, they’re finding enough patterns of serial rapists for the information information to be really valuable in current current cases as well as the ones that have been sitting on shelves for years,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Over the past decade, Congress appropriated about $1.2 billion to cut the nation’s backlog of DNA testing. In other terms: enough to test 1 million rape kits. In 2013, Congress passed the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act,requiring three- quarters of federal funding for sexual assault kits be used for testing or taking inventory. The law set up grants to help police pay for counting and testing. No g rants have been awarded. A Just Just ice Department steering committee committee met only once, in March 2 014. S en. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who authored the law, said that’s “completely unconscionable.” While federal action is stalled, changes in how rape evidence is treated fall to state and local o - cials. As more cold hits emerge, some law enforcement leaders have started to advocate for change. “They’ve had success stories with testing these kits,” said Col. E lmer Setting, who leads the New C astle Police Department in Delaware Delaware and supports mandatory testing. “It’s amazing how, (for) many of these sexual predators, we have their DNA and we never tested the kit. It doesn’t make any sense.” Tens of thousands of rape kits untested Victims ask why evidence in assaults tucked a way in storage Steve Reilly USA TODAY WVEC Debbie Smith, with her husband Rob, became an advocate for rape kit testing after her tragedy. Forensic tests of sexual assault evidence kits have been used to identify thousands of offenders since the 1990s. Here is how testing the evidence from a kit can help identify a suspect in sexual assault cases: Sexual assault kit is assembled by collecting biological and other forensic evidence including blood, semen, saliva and loose hairs. How sexual assault kit testing works HOSPITAL Investigators decide whether or not to forward the kit to a crime lab for testing. Analyzes and enters DNA into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Alerts investigators of a match; otherwise, DNA remains in CODIS for future reference. LAW ENFORCEMENT CRIME LAB ZACH WALKER, USA TODAY JIM SERGENT, USA TODAY A number of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies have not tested tens of thousands of the sexual assault kits they booked into evidence in recent years. UNTESTED SEXUAL ASSAULT KITS Memphis Houston Las Vegas Indianapolis Dallas Jacksonville Milwaukee San Diego Phoenix Tucson UNTESTED KITS 01,0003,0005,0007,000 6,942 6,663 5,266 5,006 4,140 1,943 1,830 1,782 1,749 1,615 Source: Agency and state figures obtained by USA TODAY as of early 2015 USA TODAY INVESTIGATION

Clipped from
  1. The Springfield News-Leader,
  2. 17 Jul 2015, Fri,
  3. Main Edition,
  4. Page B2

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