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.
As legislative sessions have come to an end in states across the country, progress has been made in efforts to address the rape kit backlog.
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.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Mike DeWine released his office’s monthly update on the progress of rape kit testing in Ohio.
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.
Recently, the rape kit backlog has been an increasingly common topic in news stories from across the country, from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Tennessee.
Most Americans with a general knowledge of our criminal justice system assume that rape kit evidence is sent for testing automatically after it is booked into police evidence. As DNA has played an increasingly important role in our criminal justice system, even laypeople grasp how vital DNA evidence is in resolving rape cases. Rape kit testing can identify an unknown assailant, confirm the presence of a known suspect, affirm a victim's version of events, discredit a suspect's story, identify serial rapists by connecting individual crime scenes, and exonerate innocent suspects. Rape kit testing sends a crucial message to victims that their cases matter. It puts assailants on notice that the criminal justice system takes their crimes seriously.