The NY Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof writes disturbingly about how rape and prosecuting rapists is still constrained by the slowness of evidence gathering and testing:
“A 43-year-old legal secretary was raped repeatedly in her home in Los Angeles as her son slept in another room. The attacker forced the woman to clean herself in an attempt to destroy the evidence.
Tim Marcia, the detective on the case, thought this meant that the perpetrator was a habitual offender who would strike again. Mr. Marcia rushed the rape kit to the crime lab but was told to expect a delay of more than one year.
So Mr. Marcia personally drove the kit 350 miles to deliver it to the state lab in Sacramento. Even there, the backlog resulted in a four-month delay — but then it produced a “cold hit,” a match in a database of the DNA of previous offenders.
Yet in the months while the rape kit sat on a shelf, the suspect had allegedly struck twice more. Police said he broke into the homes of a pregnant woman and a 17-year-old girl, sexually assaulting each of them.
“The criminal justice system is still ill equipped to deal with rape and not that good at moving rape cases forward,” notes Sarah Tofte, who just wrote a devastating report for Human Rights Watch about the rape-kit backlog. The report found that in Los Angeles County, there were at last count 12,669 rape kits sitting in police storage facilities. More than 450 of these kits had sat around for more than 10 years, and in many cases, the statute of limitations had expired. ”