Thursday, June 06, 2013

Michigan State Police to Test Rape Kits

Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy yesterday announced a $4 million plan to test thousands of unprocessed rape kits from crimes committed in the city of Detroit. The goal of this plan is to remove rapists and other violent criminals from Southeastern Michigan streets, protecting the region from serial criminals, as well as beginning the process of securing justice for women who were the victims of horrific crimes.

“Thousands of victims have been waiting too long for the justice they deserve,” Governor Snyder explained.  “This initiative will start us on the path to find justice for these victims. It also will help us improve public safety in Michigan by catching and locking up more of these vicious criminals. This initiative is a prime example of how state and local agencies can work together to find innovative ways to fight crime. I congratulate Attorney General Schuette, Prosecutor Worthy, and the Michigan State Police for developing this cooperative approach that will help improve public safety in our state.”

To fund the rape kit testing, Snyder included a $4 million appropriation for the State Forensics Laboratory Fund in his proposed supplemental budget currently under review by the legislature. The appropriation is funded by settlement monies successfully recovered by Schuette from state and national litigation.

In 2009, approximately 11,300 untested rape kits dating back 25 years were discovered in a Detroit Police Department property storage facility. Each rape kit has the potential to solve multiple crimes, including those committed by serial rapists. Since the closure of the Detroit Police Department Crime Laboratory in September of 2009, the Michigan State Police (MSP) has been providing forensic science services to the city of Detroit and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. The MSP’s Forensic Science Division has been instrumental in the laboratory analysis of sexual assault kits and will continue to work with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Police Department on efforts to test the remaining sexual assault kits.

Although media reports suggest untested kits have been problematic in cities around the country, Detroit and Houston are two jurisdictions currently working with the National Institute of Justice to determine how to approach the testing of previously untested kits to determine the best criminal justice outcome. Prosecutor Worthy has worked with a unique collaborative team of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, researchers and victim advocates to work toward testing every kit. With a grant from the federal government’s Office on Violence Against Women to the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, Worthy joined the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, and Michigan State University to create “Project 400”, an effort to test 400 randomly selected kits in order to determine the nature of the evidence and what kinds of cases are connected to the evidence.  Since the completion of Project 400, an additional 1,600 kits have been submitted for testing. To date, 569 have made it through the lengthy testing process.

Snyder, Schuette and Worthy look forward to working with the legislature to appropriate the funds and begin the testing process promptly. The State intends to work with established private laboratories to secure the most competitive rates to test as many kits as possible in a timely fashion. Worthy remains committed to prosecuting any potential suspects that result from the testing.

Michigan victims of sexual violence are encouraged to call the national sexual assault hotline toll-free, 1-800-656-HOPE.  All calls are confidential, and will be answered by a local counseling center affiliated with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Assistance is also available online at www.rainn.org.
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