This sixth episode in the season of “Perspectives on At-Home Sexual Assault Kits” in the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an Interview with Jay Henry, the former Crime Laboratory Director of the Utah Department of Public Safety, who discusses the complexities associated with the collection and testing of evidence, especially biological samples.
Henry discusses the critical role forensic laboratories have in the sexual assault kit testing process, as well as his perspective on considerations for testing with at-home sexual assault kits. Prior to his retirement, Henry was a crime laboratory director with extensive service in the forensics field. The focus of this interview is Henry’s perspective on the use of at-home sexual assault evidence collection kits that are available to the public without any link to a hospital or medical facility. Absent any direct experience with how persons are using at-home sexual assault kits, he presumes they would be purchased by victims of sexual assault to facilitate collecting evidence in private or with a selected person’s help. For someone without training in their use, a sexual assault kit is a complicated product whose features vary by manufacturer and jurisdictional legal precedents that set policies for their use. Henry argues that the goal of any kit should be to obtain physical evidence such as hairs, clothing fibers, carpet fibers, and miscellaneous debris such as soil, plants, cosmetics, and lubricants. Henry’s concern is that substances for DNA testing be the focus of kit procedures. This narrow focus may ignore other important aspects of evidence collection that are significant in identifying suspects. In addition to collecting appropriate evidence, another significant challenge for at-home sexual assault kits is the storage, preservation, and purposeful managing of how the collected evidence will be used.