Cleveland, Detroit and Memphis are all cities that discovered backlogs of untested rape kits in their jurisdictions, tested those kits and entered the DNA profile into CODIS, the national DNA database. Testing these backlogged rape kits has resulted in the identification of nearly 1,000 potential serial rapists.
In our final part of his interview, Rick talks about how Cuyahoga County is moving forward to address their backlog, and how they’re collaborating with other cities that are doing the same.
In Cleveland, five cold cases involving two perpetrators have been solved as a result of DNA evidence found in previously untested rape kits.
We sometimes hear from jurisdictions that they don’t consider the untested rape kits in their storage facilities to be part of a backlog—that officials actively chose not to test those kits. These jurisdictions fail to see the value of testing every kit booked into evidence, particularly when the identity of the perpetrator is known.
Cleveland, which is located in Cuyahoga County, has been leading the way in securing cold case convictions after submitting nearly 4,000 backlogged rape kits for testing as part of Ohio's Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative.
Our new series, Cold Case Convictions, begins, highlighting the consequences in allowing rape kits to remain untested, as well as the value DNA evidence has for bringing justice to victims of sexual assault.
Their investigative work with the Cleveland Plain Dealer has explored each facet of the criminal justice response to sexual violence—from rape kit testing to victim re-engagement to prosecution. Read our interview with them.
Since Ohio's rape kit testing initiative began in 2011, 125 agencies have submitted 6,437 kits—about half of which have been tested.
As NPR reported this week, "rape kits give evidence to victims' stories." Law enforcement must count, track and test the kits in their evidence rooms—they must believe and honor survivors' decisions to participate in the criminal justice process.
Last week, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the latest numbers on his state’s efforts to end its backlog of untested rape kits, which currently stands at 4,956.