Candidate wants backlog of rape kits to be tested
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former employee of the State Attorney's Office who is running against his former boss in next year's election is calling to get rape kits tested faster.
When a woman reports being raped, critical DNA and other forensic evidence are immediately collected in a kit that can help police catch the attacker and prosecutors to seek a conviction. But Wes White, who is running to unseat State Attorney Angela Corey, said there are more than 1,500 untested rape kits in the 4th Judicial Circuit.
White said the untested rape kits dating back to 1984 are sitting in the evidence lockers at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. At a news conference Thursday, he called for them to be picked up in a armored car and taken to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab within the next 48 hours for processing.
White said he is putting the pressure on local politicians because the victims of rape deserve swift justice. Each rape kit costs roughly $800 to test, which adds up to well over $1 million to test all of them.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said his department has been sending 50 rape kits a month to FDLE for the past year and a half.
"Some kits don't need to be tested for a multitude of reasons, like the suspect confessed," Williams said.
Neither the sheriff nor state attorney's Division Chief Theresa Simac know the exact reason for the high number of unprocessed rape tests, but Simac said it is a top priority for Corey
"We have proactively for the past 15 months been working on this project, and we were looking to sources for funding," Simac said.
The office has applied for a $3 million federal grant to help pay for the testing and related investigations. If the grant is awarded, the money would become available in October.
"The grant that we applied for will help us to give funding to the JSO to provide to detectives just to investigate," Simac said. "Once you get the results from a rape kit, there is investigation that needs to be done."
White said these victims have already waited too long.
"Can you imagine if it was your mother, your daughter or sister who was a victim of that sexual assault and you find out that rape test kit is sitting on a shelf someplace?" White said. "I think you'd be furious. I'm furious, and it needs to stop."
State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina, is drafting a bill that would require sexual assault kits to be sent for testing within 21 days.
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