Fourteen years after a Detroit woman reported a sexual assault, she got her first call back from authorities, says the Detroit News. A suspect’s DNA matched a sample taken that long-ago night and sealed in a cardboard box in a Detroit Police Department Crime Lab property room. Today, a 38-year-old man is being tried for that crime. Defendant Antonio Jackson has been married for five years, working, getting on with his life. His lawyer, Michael Komorn, questions “a rush to judgment” based on physical evidence collected long ago, in what he calls “a monumental” backlog. It’s the first test of the 400 Project, a random sample of 400 of the 10,559 cardboard boxes called “rape kits” that languished in a property room until they were “discovered” or “observed” during a 2008 walk-through of the room by state police officials and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
Four years after authorities began an effort to tackle the boxes, and the thousands of stories and potential crimes languishing inside, the first case of 400 studied is finally coming to trial. “You don’t get a problem like this because one person didn’t do his job,” said Rebecca Campbell, a Michigan State University psychology professor. She is working with prosecutors, police, and medical personnel to diagnose what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Campbell describes a systemic failure of colossal proportions involving many people: relationships between the police and prosecutor, between hospitals and forensic examiners and doctors and lab technicians, each trying to do their jobs.