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Solving Sexual Assaults: Finding Answers Through Research

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 270 Dated: June 2012 Pages: 4-17
Date Published
June 2012
14 pages
Publication Series
For a sample of nearly 11,000 untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in the property rooms of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD), this study assessed the efficacy of DNA testing and determined the criminal justice outcomes (arrest, charge, conviction) within the first 6 months after the kits were DNA tested.
Regarding the study's second objective, for a randomly selected sample of 371 SAKs, there were no new arrests; new charges were filed in 1 case; and there were 2 convictions in the first 6 months after these kits were tested. Researchers concluded that it is probable that the DNA testing was not responsible for the single filing and the two convictions. The study also held focus groups with sexual assault investigators, prosecuting attorneys, and criminalists from the LAPD and LASD. These groups considered the role SAK evidence plays in resolving stranger and non-stranger sexual assaults. Participants' most commonly expressed sentiment was that mandatory testing of SAKs was unnecessary when the suspect's identity is already known, such that the main legal issue is whether there was consent from the alleged victim. Based on study findings, the researchers recommend that criteria be developed for submitting SAKs to the lab and criteria for deciding which kits should be DNA tested. A second recommendation is that mandatory data elements be established for recordkeeping, including why a decision was made not to send a SAK to the crime lab for testing. A third recommendation is that jurisdictions not start testing all SAKs in their custody until they know whether the kit has been previously tested and whether the case has been adjudicated without being DNA tested. Related NIJ action-research projects are briefly described for Houston, Detroit, and the State of Massachusetts. 1 figure and 7 notes

Date Published: June 1, 2012