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Governor signs law to speed up rape kit tests

Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that requires police and hospitals to handle rape evidence kits in a timely fashion. It’s a response to the discovery in 2009 of 11,000 abandoned evidence kits in a Detroit police warehouse.

Governor Snyder says the Michigan State Police is on track to clear the backlog by next May. But the goal of the new law is to ensure future backlogs don’t happen.

“There are victims here, and they deserve great care and handling and resolution to their crimes that have been committed against them,” he said just before signing the law at a MSP crime lab in Lansing

“Every one of those kits represent a real human being – a daughter, a wife, a mother, somebody who had a terrifically awful experience, and now what they know is that the state of Michigan counts that as important and we will be proceeding to test those kits,” said Debi Caine of the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention & Treatment Board.

Right now, the turnaround time for processing a rape evidence kit is 53 days, and the governor says the goal is to improve on that number. The Michigan State Police is an average of 30 days to determine whether there is sufficient proof to move a case to the next stage of an investigation.

State Representative John Walsh, R-Livonia, sponsored the law. He says the Detroit situation revealed problems across the state

“Police agencies didn’t know what to do with the lab kits. Hospitals and the health care facilities weren’t always sure what do with the lab kits. We have now defined the process, so we can get those lab kits to the State Police, and have them tested, and, hopefully, catch the wrongdoers and put them behind bars.”

Roughly 1,600 of the delinquent kits have been tested, and the information shared with a national database of sex offenders. That’s led to the identification of 127 suspected serial rapists.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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