BREAKING NEWS!

Well, at least it should be breaking news.  At least I did hear a quick report about it on my local public broad casting station tonight.  Debbie Smith was actually featured for a small moment. She apparently started or was involved somehow in Los Angeles County receiving millions of dollars from the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant, a program the US Congress developed to close the gap on rape kit back logs  (see my previous blog on rape kit back ups, courtesy of the New York Times).

They did not use the money the way they were supposed to.  The backlog of more than 12,669 test kits still exist, as it did when they had been granted the money. These kits have never even been sent on for forensic testing.  HRW’s article was published March 31 of this year.  Debbie made the news today.

The following from http://www.hrw.org/en/news  “US: Lost Angeles County Should test Thousand of Rape Kits” says the following:

“Of these  12,669 untested kits, at least of 1,218 are from unsolved cases in which the attacker was a stranger to the victim.  And 499 kits are attached to cases past the 10-year statue of limitations for rape in California, making it impossible to prosecute the alleged assailants even if they were to be identified.  Under California law, if those 499 kits had been opened within two years of the attack, the statute would no longer apply.  Thousand more rape kits were destroyed untested.

Human Rights Watch’s report …contains previously unpublished data on the extent of the rape kit backlog in the 47 cities in Lost Angeles County that have independent police departments.  For example, records obtained by Human Rights Watch show that the City of Long Beach booked 1,911 rape kits into evidence in the past 15 years.  Of those, 51 were sent to the crime lab, an estimated 780 untested kits were destroyed, and 1,072 currently sit still untested in their police storage facility.

Law enforcement officials told Human Rights Watch they sometimes delayed submitting a kit for testing because they did not believe a crime had occurred.  Officials also said they tested every kit in which the attacker was a stranger to the victim, but the subsequent backlog count showed this not to be the case.  Testing the rape kits can do more than isolate an unknown attacker’s DNA: it can connect evident from different scenes and it can exonerate innocent suspects.”

Failure to test these kits puts others at risk of attack by rapists who have gone free. This has happened in some of these Los Angeles cases. Unnecessary rapes and rape kits are therefore  increased. 

I tried to find out what exactly Debbie Smith said today on the www.newshour.pbs.org for December 15, 2009.  Was it to announce that Congress was putting some ‘teeth’ behind all the money Los Angeles county has been given to get rid of this backlog and has not done so?  I don’t know.  If so, that would definitely be a ‘Breaking News’ report, if all things were equal.  I will continue to try to find out, as I missed what she said, having been listening while busy with baking Christmas cookies.  I was disappointed not to be able to find out on their website. All of this makes me wonder what the real story is here.

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