Troubled by the national backlog of an estimated 400,000 rape test kits, U.S Sen. John Cornyn said he is introducing an amendment this week to the re-authorization of the federal National Violence Against Women Act.
“It’s simply an unacceptable state of affairs to have untested rape kits sitting in police lockers for years,” said Cornyn.
He said since many rapists are repeat offenders, testing their DNA against the national databank is crucial.
“You can make a positive identification and take those people off the street,” he said, or clear the innocent as well.
Cornyn said he’s heard of cases where the wait can make prosecution impossible, due to the statute of limitations.
The U.S. Senator and former Texas Attorney General said his amendment would create an inventory of pending rape kits compiled from across the country.
“Then we’ll dedicate more money with the money granted by the federal government to local jurisdictions, to get these kits tested,” Cornyn said.
Susan Reed, Bexar County district attorney, said she welcomes Cornyn’s proposed legislation in light of a new Texas law that mandates the backlog be cleared.
“It was an unfunded mandate,” she said. “The Legislature wanted an analysis of what’s out there and what needed to be tested.”
Reed said usually the cost of DNA testing is covered as part of its prosecution, but how to pay for backlog could be another matter.
“That’s a good question cause it’s very expensive,” Reed said.
Also still pending, Reed said is where the kits must be submitted for testing under the new law. She said her office, like jurisdictions across the state, are awaiting direction from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
She said the DPS lab in Austin already is in high demand.
Reed said when Bexar County’s backlog of 5,000 rape kits came to light in 2009, “we jumped right on it.”
She said most was DNA from unknown suspects, so all that remains are 2,077 untested kits from alleged known perpetrators.
Lynn Blanco, president and CEO of the Rape Crisis Center, said once the testing gets underway, “I think it’s going to hopefully open a lot of possibilities of solving cold cases.”
She said only 18 out of 100 victims ever report their sexual assault.
“We don’t know the magnitude of the problem,” Blanco said.
Blanco urges victims to call the Rape Crisis 24-hour hotline, 349-7273.