Prompted by a hearty nudge from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, police forces throughout the state have been sending their backlogged caches of rape kits (forensic evidence collected from victims of sexual assault) to state crime labs, potentially yielding leads to scores of unsolved rape cases dating back to the early 90s.
Almost half of the 2,300 submitted kits are from the Cleveland Police, and there's a lot more where those came from: Cleveland alone reports more than 3,700 untested rape kits in storage. The PD estimates that a third of the kits could generate DNA matches.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office, the lab where the Cleveland-area tests are conducted, projects a capacity of 100 cases a month, starting with the earliest viable kits. This means it could be years before DNA results evince actionable investigative leads for more recent cases, and some of the older cases may no longer be prosecutable because of the Ohio Statute of Limitations' 20-year expiry for first-degree rape cases.
Cleveland Police Chief McGrath told reporters he thinks it's "outstanding" that many of the kits tested so far have produced DNA matches, which is actually the not-too-outstanding premise for running the tests in the first place.
As stated by the AP, "Officials say some reasons older kits were not tested include costs, protocols limiting what was tested and a lack of understanding about DNA evidence," which is department code for "there are things we'd rather do than get all Bill Nye with your 15-year-old vagina swabs."
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network asserts that "the use of DNA evidence has not kept pace with its potential," a significant understatement—the first DNA-based rape conviction was back in 1987. More importantly, Law and Order: SVU and CSI have been on air for approximately four thousand seasons, so "a lack of understanding" about using forensic evidence to identify and convict sexual assault perpetrators is basically inexcusable.
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