News reports out of New Orleans show that already tested evidence, in the form of a rape kit, was found in the attic of a criminal courthouse. The evidence was thought to have been destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. Should its existing DNA content not match currently convicted Brooker Diggins, he is not exactly off the hook. It may match the victim’s boyfriend of the time, with whom she had sex 62 hours before the documented time of the rape.
While the test may be inconclusive, this story more largely addresses the state of rape kits nationwide. Old evidence, especially that from before DNA testing existed, may have been disregarded in the time of its founding. DNA samples had been collected for the right reasons but not utilized for their full evidential ability.
No one thought to test the rape kit of a Dallas woman, from her incident in 1984, until her husband called the police department about it in 2008, and investigators responded and found it. According to the article from NBCDFW.com, more than 400,000 kits, or existing DNA sets from assault crimes, are in existence and have not been tested. The fact that this woman actively searched for the truth in the evidence reminds us that truth in justice is equally important to victims and inmates.
The timeliness in finding such evidence is possibly the most important aspect. While her kit matched the DNA of a known rapist, he could not be prosecuted because of the statutory limitation. To make progress on avoiding such a situation in other cases, she is working with Sen. John Cornyn on the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act of 2012.
In spirit of The National Registry of Exonerations mentioned in Tuesday’s post, SAFER will also be establishing an online database of forensic evidence, to assure no kits go untested. Their quantities being even larger than the amount of known exonerations, having them organized is only mandatory to avoid wrongful conviction due to poor bookkeeping. This evidence is crucial to saving lives.
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