LANSING, MI – Over 11,000 sexual assault kits, some dating back to the 1980’s, were found abandoned in a Detroit Police storage facility back in 2009. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy brought that travesty to light. She spearheaded the processing of those rape test kits with Michigan State Police.
In processing a fraction of those rape test kits, they identified over 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists.
Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation encouraging faster and more organized sexual assault kit testing.
Senate Bill 998, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Jones, creates the Sexual Assault Kit Tracking and Reporting Commission. Under the legislation, the commission is responsible for developing guidelines to effectively implement a statewide system to track location, lab status, and completed test results for sexual assault evidence kits.
“Too many victims have been waiting too long for justice they deserve. This legislation will help monitor the testing status of assault evidence kits,” Snyder said. “By ensuring faster testing and more organized record-keeping we can improve public safety and help put the minds of assault victims at ease.”
The bill builds on Public Act 227, signed earlier this summer to establish the time period in which sexual assault evidence kits must be processed. The bill came after a 2009 discovery of more than 11,000 evidence collection kits in a Detroit Police Department storage facility. To date, 10,000 of those kits have been sent for testing, including 8,000 currently being processed as a result of funding from a $4 million 2013 supplemental state appropriation.
“This bill sends a powerful message to sexual assault victims in Michigan that our state is committed to making justice for victims a priority,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board. “It also ensures that sexual assault kits will be given the attention they deserve and are treated as important evidence in cases moving forward.”
Members of the commission will include the Michigan attorney general and the director of the Michigan State Police or their designees, as well as representation from a variety of heath and law enforcement organizations.
The bill is now PA 318 of 2014.
SB 1004, sponsored by state Sen. Bert Johnson, creates the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Act. The bill requires law enforcement agencies investigating sexual assault cases to inform victims about the processing status of their assault evidence kits and provide assailant DNA information at the victim’s request, where the released information will not interfere with an ongoing investigation. It is now PA 319. SB 1021, also sponsored by Johnson, extends the period of time during which health care professionals must inform sexual assault victims of the option to consent to a sexual assault evidence kit from 24 hours to 120 hours, or five days following the assault. The bill also classifies sexual assault evidence kits as a medical procedure. It is now PA 320.
SB 1036, sponsored by Jones, provides for expedited DNA and HIV testing of defendants charged in sexual assault cases. Victims can request the expedited testing be completed within 48 hours of the defendant’s indictment or 48 hours after the defendant is taken into custody. The bill also aligns Michigan with federal law. It is now PA 321.