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Rape kit testing leads to charges against six

  • Birdsall Obear

Sexual assault test kits can be compelling and even decisive evidence in criminal prosecutions. However, everyone who is accused of a crime has the right to a defense, and a good defense means questioning the reliability of the evidence.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice's initiative to analyze thousands of untested assault kits has led to the filing of charges against six individuals in cold cases. A legal defense against sex offenses should consider this type of testing and whether its results are accurate and valid.

Tens of thousands of sexual assault kits remain untested in this country. Reasons for this include the prosecution's decision that the case was too weak to prosecute, or the victims would not cooperate. Since 2014, victim advocacy groups have asked states to analyze these kits to identify serial offenders. 

Wisconsin received a $4 million federal grant to test the kits in 2015. According to the tests, there was detectable DNA in 1,605 kits and enough DNA in 998 of those to place in the FBI's CODIS DNA database. From those 998 kits, there were 580 matches to profiles in that database.

The Department of Justice is also working with local police department to review cases. The testing has led to charges against six suspects in Milwaukee, Oneida, Rock, Winnebago and Waupaca counties. The DOJ intends to review the remaining cases with new DNA.

This and other scientific evidence should be reviewed to determine whether it was properly tested or processed and whether it was obtained legally. An attorney can help craft a strong defense against criminal charges and help assure that a person's rights are protected in these cases.

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