Florida nearly caught up on backlog of rape kit testing

Hundreds of DNA hits on recently tested kits have led to prosecutions

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has almost caught up on its backlog of untested rape kits, leading to hundreds of additional arrests and prosecutions for sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Kit Progress Report released Monday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows that 7,137 backlogged kits were completed by the end of 2018. 

According to the latest progress report, the tests produced 1,485 hits in the Combined DNA Index System, meaning a suspect was identified.

The state attorney for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties said more than 1,700 rape kits were sent to FDLE in 2017, clearing the backlog in Northeast Florida. Of those, 370 had hits for DNA of suspects already in the database.

Some of those cases have resulted in criminal charges, including some convicts already in the prison system now facing additional charges.

Michael Simmons, 34, was serving time in prison for a 2005 rape when a rape kit that sat untested for nearly 14 years linked him to another sexual assault.

Another example is Mikel McCuskey, who was released from prison last year, but almost immediately arrested on a new charge after a rape kit linked him to a 2006 sexual assault.

The state Legislature approved initial funding to eliminate the backlog during Florida’s 2016 Legislative Session. During the session, the Attorney General’s Office worked with law enforcement, prosecutors, survivors and state lawmakers to secure $2.3 million for testing and additional funding to raise the wages of lab analysts to reduce turnover, purchase new forensic testing equipment and upgrade existing lab equipment.

Florida law now requires all newly collected kits to be submitted by law enforcement to the crime laboratory within 30 days and processed by the laboratory within 120 days of receipt. According to the latest report, FDLE has a 99.9 percent compliance rate with an average turnaround time of 84 days for newly received kits. 

“This is very encouraging news as the state continues to make tremendous progress toward this important goal," Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

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