7,000 DNA kits have not been tested by Los Angeles police jeopardizing hundreds of sexual assault cases

Richard Winton of The Los Angles Times reports today that nearly 200 potential sexual assault cases have gone without prosecution because Los Angeles Police officials failed to test them within the 10-year statute of limitations period required to identify and charge a suspect in a sexual crime. These claims come on top of last week’s allegations that the LAPD’s fingerprint experts have been inconsistent in their work– to the point where innocent people were falsely implicated in crimes.

According to law enforcement officials, each kit contains a potential genetic road map to the perpetrator of a crime. In Los Angeles County, the backlog has occasionally caused trial dates to be canceled. And in one case, an evidence kit that went untested for months left a suspected rapist free to allegedly assault another victim.

A City Controller audit showed that the LAPD has a backlog of 7,000 sexual assault test kits that have not been examined. Of those cases, 217 are beyond the 10-year statute in which to prosecute the crimes. As an excuse, Police say that they don’t have enough funding to run these labs efficiently and that more forensic techs were authorized–but budgeting for their salaries weren’t.

Victim advocates think that it is unconscionable to make rape victims go through the trauma of the examination for the rape kit and then wait years for police to investigate and prosecute their cases because their kits aren’t tested. Our office thinks that if there is DNA evidence that can exonerate or implicate a person, it should be tested before pleas are entered or charges filed. The criminal justice system is supposed to seek the truth- the current backlog of processing such probative evidence flies in the face of those notions.

Comments about this post can be directed to Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William Weinberg at 714.834.1400.