Backlog In Rape Kit Testing Persists - NBC Chicago
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Backlog In Rape Kit Testing Persists

State says outside agency will soon begin to test kits

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    NEWSLETTERS

    State says outside agency will soon begin to test kits. NBC Chicago's Carol Marin reports. (Published Thursday, June 11, 2015)

    In Illinois the backlog of untested rape kits is an estimated 1600, according to a State Police official. In some cases, it takes up to a year to complete the test.

    Within the next several months Illinois State Police will "ship hundreds of cases" to an outside vendor, according to Commander Arlene Hall, in an effort to cut down on the wait time.

    Once a sexual assault occurs and a rape kit is done, Deanne Benos, of Test 400k, a national group promoting quicker testing, says Illinois law is clear: "That law says law enforcement has to deliver the kit to the state police crime lab in 10 days and they have six months to test it, which is beyond reasonable."

    In 2010, in an effort to eliminate a large backlog of untested rape kits in the state, a new law was passed. It worked, and 4, 100 untested kits were examined.

    But as old kits were being disposed of, new rape kits arrived and created a new backlog, which concerns advocates like Sarah Layden of Rape Victim Advocates.

    "We have kits that are taking excruciatingly long and in the meantime these cases are hanging in limbo," Layden said.

    Rape kits, which are administered at hospitals, can take three to four hours to complete, explained Benos.

    "They’re exhaustive. They’ve occurred after somebody’s probably endured the most horrific experience of their life," she said, "hoping that that rape kit will result in someone being held accountable."

    In 2014 brothers L.B. and Leondo Joseph were linked by DNA evidence and charged by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in connection with six rapes, dating back to 2003. Both brothers have entered pleas of not guilty.

    The case of Nikki Saez is not included in the six cases. In March of 2012, she claimed she met L.B. Joseph on a date, which resulted in a rape.

    "And every time I would fight, he would punch me or hit me or choke me. Anything to get me to stop struggling," Saez said in a December 2014 interview.

    Saez was taken by ambulance to Swedish Covenant Hospital.

    "There was a rape kit. I don’t know if it was ever looked at but there was a rape kit," she said.

    Saez positively identified L.B. Joseph but prosecutors downgraded the case to a misdemeanor battery and a Cook County judge found Joseph not guilty of the charge. Michelle Ford, Nikki’s Saez’s mother, said her daughter’s rape kit should have been analyzed.

    "It was sent out but because the charges were downgraded from sexual assault to battery, they did not finish the rape kit," Ford said recently.

    Six months after Saez claimed she was assaulted, the Joseph brothers allegedly raped again, the final in the six rapes with which they have now been charged.

    In California, a pilot program is under way in which rape kit results are sent directly from the hospital to the state crime lab and in 15 days the results are posted. That’s 15 days compared to up to a year in Illinois.

    The quicker testing and reporting, Benos said, might have made a difference for Nikki Saez whose rape kit was not completed, and for others waiting for answers.

    "I think the California model could be the answer and again its something we are exploring," she said, adding, "You test no matter what."

    Illinois State Police Commander Arlene Hall said the state is looking at ways to streamline the process and to get tests results quicker.  The Illinois legislature has approved legislation to increase funding by $6 million for the forensics unit of the Illinois State Police but that is currently tied up in budget negotiations in Springfield.

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