Boots & Sabers

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2154, 08 Aug 15


Officials Try to Sort Out Old Sexual Assault Kits

Wow, what a mess.

Madison— Thousands of DNA samples taken from victims of suspected sexual assaults have sat untested in police storage across Wisconsin for as long as 19 years, erasing in some cases any chance that suspects could be tried for crimes, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review has found.

To sort out the more than 6,000 untested kits — including at least 2,566 in the city of Milwaukee — a team of experts led by the state Department of Justice has developed a protocol to standardize treatment and investigation of sexual assault cases that it hopes to carry out later this year, the conclusion of more than two years of planning.

There are many reasons kits could sit untested in storage. In some cases, testing the kit wasn’t necessary for a conviction, but the evidence must be held until the perpetrator serves the complete sentence.

In others, victims have not decided whether to press charges.

But because incomplete records have been kept with the kits, there is no way to tell why they have not been tested. In short, officials do not know how many kits are in storage that should be tested.

Jill Karofsky, executive director of the Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services, said officials face hurdles because they don’t know what victims were told when samples were taken.

“The victim could have been told that they were going to remain anonymous,” she said. “It could have been a victim who didn’t want to participate in the criminal justice system.”

In 2012, then-Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen formed the Sexual Assault Response Team, consisting of health and law enforcement professionals from around the state.

His successor and fellow Republican, Brad Schimel has continued the team, which has taken two years to draft procedures for health and law enforcement officials to follow in sexual assault cases.

I’m glad that they are trying to sort it out.


2154, 08 August 2015



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