Joyful Heart Foundation and Partners File Amicus Brief in Ohio Case That Could Undermine Justice for Rape Survivors

For Immediate Release: January 20, 2016
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the State of Ohio, which is appealing the Ohio Court of Appeals’ decision to use the state’s backlog of untested rape kits in part to dismiss rape and kidnapping charges against an alleged serial rapist. Partners AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV), and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) joined Joyful Heart in filing the amicus late last night (available at: http://endthebacklog.org/sites/default/files/Jones%20Amicus%20Brief%20FINAL%281%29.pdf).

“The rape kit backlog represents a failure of the criminal justice system to protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable,” said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Joyful Heart. “Ohio is one of the jurisdictions that has undertaken work to clear its backlog, dedicating significant resources to testing kits and prosecuting cases. Through these efforts, thousands of kits will be tested and thousands of survivors will have the chance of seeing their perpetrators brought to justice. If left to stand, the Court of Appeals decision would undermine this highly successful initiative. The Supreme Court must reverse this decision. We are grateful to our partners for joining us in this effort, and to Goodwin Procter LLP for their pro bono assistance.”

DNA evidence is a powerful law enforcement tool. The DNA contained in a rape kit can identify unknown assailants, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm the survivor’s account of the attack, connect the suspect to other unsolved crimes, and exonerate the innocent. And yet, there are thousands upon thousands of rape kits sitting untested in police storage facilities across the country. 

The brief filed today asks the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn the Appeals Court decision dismissing an indicted rapist’s case on the grounds that he experienced an “unconstitutional pre-indictment delay” due to the passage of time before charges were brought. Joyful Heart and its partners believe that the Court of Appeals’ decision was made in error and has the potential to do great damage to Ohio’s efforts to prosecute cases in which additional evidence is obtained – in some cases decades later – as a result of testing rape kits that were part of the state’s backlog of more than 11,000.

Joyful Heart has been a leader in the effort to provide cities and states with the resources they need to address their backlog of rape kits. In September 2015, Joyful Heart Founder and President Mariska Hargitay stood beside Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. as they awarded nearly $80 million in funding to more than 40 law enforcement agencies in 20 states to address their backlogs of untested rape kits. The Ohio Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office were among the agencies who received funds to move forward on reform.

“The rape kit backlog is one of the clearest and most shocking demonstrations of how we regard these crimes in our society,” added Hargitay. “Testing rape kits sends a fundamental and crucial message to victims of sexual violence: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your cases matter.”

For background and further information on the rape kit backlog, go to: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.

 

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