DETROIT, MI – The back log of untested rape kits from the closed DetroitCrime Lab is not news that is new. The discovery of those kits happened in 2009. For the most part, the learning of over 11,ooo unprocessed rape kits, the shock has settled. To date, approximately 1,600 of those have been tested.
From the analysis of 1,600 of the backlogged kits, it has led to the identification of at least 100 suspected serial rapists, and more than 14 convictions involving 10 defendants. Some of those identified criminals have moved out of Michigan to other parts of the country. It was recently learned that some of those identified in Michigan went on to commit similar crimes in 23 other states.
Row upon row of rape kits remained untouched on shelves in a police evidence storage facility for years. In April of 2012, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told the media “I don’t know if they were just forgotten, I don’t know if they were ignored, I don’t know if they were deliberately put there”. Worthy has lead the call to secure the funding to get the backlog tested and when possible, criminals convicted through that evidence. In 2012 Worthy estimated it would cost at least $15 million dollars to eliminate the backlog of untested kits in Wayne County.
Detroit is not the only place where untested rape kits sit. An estimated 400,000 sit waiting throughout the United States. There are at least 20,000 in Texas, Memphis 12,000, Cleveland 3,000 and another 4,000 in Illinois.
To further complicate matters, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano continues to slash funding for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to operate her offices with enough staffing to get cases through the court process. Worthy has had to resort to fund raising efforts. Ficano recently stated that he again wants to cut funding to her office which would eliminate another 7 attorneys.
On Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden announced that $35 million dollars has been allocated in President Obama’s 2015 budget to help test more rape kits. How much of that funding Kym Worthy will get is unknown at this time.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy plans on announcing legislation that is aimed at setting guidelines and even more importantly, deadlines for rape kit tests to be processed.
Actress Mariska Hargitay from the television series Law & Order recently stood next to Kym Worthy in a news conference to lend her support through her Joyful Heart Foundation in getting the backlog under control.
Now that this horrifying issue is being addressed, a focus should be in determining how the problem began and why was it allowed to continue for over a decade. Special investigators and prosecutors need to come from the highest levels of government to get answers to why this problem was allowed to happen for so long. Those that were in charge should be prosecuted themselves. They too have committed crimes against the thousands of victims who have sat waiting for justice.
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