Senate to Consider Funding for Backlog of 20,000 Rape Kits in Texas


The U.S. Senate will consider a bill next week that could help Texas prosecutors pay to analyze 20,000 rape kits, some of which have been in storage for more than a decade, reports the Dallas Morning News. Most of the kits weren't analyzed because law enforcement officials determined it wouldn't have helped the prosecution or the victim failed to stay engaged with the case, but advocates stress the need to upload all available DNA into a federal database. Nationwide, as many as 400,000 kits are thought to be untested. Law enforcement agencies have generally prioritized stranger-on-stranger sexual assaults, which are a minority of cases.

Sgt. Patrick Welsh, head of the Dallas police sexual assaults unit, estimated the department has about 3,500 untested sexual assault kits from suspended cases from 1996 to August 2011, after which all sexual assault kits were required by law to be tested without discretion by law enforcement. “The kit is really to prove two things: the identity of the suspect and that a sexual act occurred,” Welsh said. He said most kits aren't analyzed because police investigations show the case didn't happen or the victim doesn't follow up with information needed to prosecute the case. But if the funding is available, “the more DNA in the system, the better,” he said.

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