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Years Delayed, Detroit Starts Testing Rape Kits For Evidence

by NPR Staff
Dec 29, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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Detroit is starting to sort through thousands of boxes of potential evidence in rape cases that have been left unprocessed. The 11,000 "rape kits" were discovered in 2009, and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy has been leading the effort to process them.

In April, she told weekends on All Things Considered that they began with a random sample of 400 kits to get a snapshot of what they were dealing with. That sampling led to two trials, which resulted in convictions.

"Both of those defendants are now serving time for a very, very long time," Worthy tells Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

Lab technicians have tested an additional 243 kits, which Worthy says uncovered more than 21 serial rapists just in that sample. Worthy has estimated that processing all of the backlogged kits would cost around $15 million. Currently, the city has the money to test about 800 to 1,000 kits.

"So we have a lot more work to do in raising funds to see that these kits are tested," she says.

Despite the work left undone, Worthy believes progress can be made to correct the problem nationwide.

"I'm hopeful that if people take the right approach from the very beginning that we can certainly put a dent in this," she says.

After a national protocol is developed, Worthy says, people will know how to handle untested kits.

"But even more optimistically," she says, "I really hope that people will not be stockpiling these rape kits, and we will not even have this as a problem."

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