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SATI e-News: March 24, 2003

  

 
In This Issue:
      
    
     
 
  Supreme Court Upholds Megan's Law and Sex Offender Registries
     
 

A Supreme Court decision rendered earlier this month bolstered state sex offender registries around the country. It is the first time that the Supreme Court has weighed in on so-called Megan’s laws, named for 7 year-old Megan Kanka who was raped and killed in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived in her neighborhood without the knowledge of her parents. In two separate decisions, the Court rejected challenges to sex offender notification laws in Connecticut and Alaska, which addressed different aspects of such laws.
 
In a unanimous 9 to 0 ruling, the justices found that the Connecticut law does not violate due process rights of sex offenders by posting their names, pictures and other information on the World Wide Web without giving each offender an opportunity for a hearing to demonstrate they are no longer dangerous. In the opinion, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote that, “due process does not require the opportunity to prove a fact that is not material to the state’s statutory scheme,” and that the Connecticut Department of Public Safety “has made no determination that any individual included in the registry is currently dangerous.” He further stated that, Connecticut’s Web site explicitly disclaimed any effort to predict the danger an offender presents to the public. Consequently, Rehnquist said that there was no constitutional right to disprove what the state was not asserting.
 
In the Alaska case, the Court rejected arguments that the State’s Megan’s Law should not apply to sex offenders who committed crimes before the law took effect. Attorneys for the two sex offenders who filed the case had argued before the Court that the registry constituted an additional punishment, in violation of ex post facto laws. But in the 6-3 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the justices found that the public notification laws are not a matter of imposing another punishment, but rather dissemination of information that is already public record.
 
Constitutional experts believe the two Supreme Court rulings dealt a serious blow to privacy and civil rights advocates, and will weaken or foreclose pending challenges to Megan’s laws in other states, particularly those based on double jeopardy, according to the New York Times. However, civil rights activists are expected to continue formulating other constitutional challenges, based on comments made in separate opinions rendered by Justices David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg which suggest the Court may be open to considering constitutional arguments based on either denial of liberty or equal protection challenges, according to the New York Times.
 
All 50 states have some form of Megan’s law on the books, and according to the New York Times, about half of them make individualized assessments of dangerousness before posting an offender’s information. In New Jersey, for example, nearly half the offenders are placed in the lowest-risk category and are not subject to public disclosure of their whereabouts. Only about 5 percent of the sex offenders in New Jersey, the most dangerous, are subject to widespread disclosure, also according to the Times.
 
Sources:
 
“Sex Offender Lists Protect Public, Supreme Court Says; Justices Uphold Megan’s Laws,” Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2003.
 
“Megan’s Laws Affirmed by High Court,” Washington Post, March 6, 2003.
 
“Supreme Court Watch,” The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, March 5, 2003.
 
“The Supreme Court: Sex Offenders; Justices Reject Challenges to Megan’s Laws,” New York Times, March 6, 2003.
 
“Ruling Opens Door to List Sex Offenders,” New York Times, March 9, 2003.
 
“Court OKs Online Sex Offender Postings,” Associated Press, March 5, 2003.
 
Links to sex offender registries in all 50 states
 
SATI e-News, November 2002 issue

 

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  DOE Clarifies What Campus Crime Victims Can Disclose About Assailants
     
  The Department of Education clarified that victims of violent crime on college campuses do not violate a student privacy law by publicly sharing the final results of disciplinary action taken against their assailants when the school has found the accused violated institutional rules. However, the DOE stated that if the accused student is found not to violate school rules, the student bringing the charge may not redisclose any information which the university shares.
 
The DOE guidance was in the form of a response to a letter from Security on Campus (SOC), a national nonprofit victim rights organization. In a letter to the DOE last October, SOC Vice President S. Daniel Carter charged that universities are using the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to hide campus crime information from their students and the public.
 
The specific case, which prompted SOC's query involved Samantha Collins, a student at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Collins had brought rape charges against another student through the campus judicial process. The assailant was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing and was expelled from school.
 
Last Fall, Collins put up posters on campus which chronicled the events in her case, including the name of her attacker. The victim told the Student Press Law Center that she decided on the poster campaign when she realized that her assailant had become eligible to apply for readmission to the school. School officials took down the posters and told Collins she was in violation of FERPA laws. The administration later apologized for its action after Security on Campus pointed out the law, which allows this type of disclosure, and she was told she could put up the posters again.
 
Both the DOE and SOC letters are available on the SOC website.
 
Sources:
 
"Rape victim's poster taken down twice at William and Mary; identifying assailant led to censorship by campus officials," Student Press Law Center, October 29, 2002.
 
"US Department of Education says campus crime victims can redisclose disciplinary results," Security on Campus press release, March 19, 2003.

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  Operation Freefall: A Two-Mile High Stand Against Sexual Assault
      
  Rape survivors often experience anxiety on the anniversary of their assault. Even the approach of the day can bring on a panic attack and cause painful flashbacks. Four years ago, Kellie Greene decided to reclaim January 18, the date she was raped in 1994. She wanted to give that day a different meaning--one of her own choosing, and one that was positive and uplifting. On January 18, 1998, Kellie made her first parachute jump. Five years later, thousands of supporters will join Kellie on April 26 at dozens of jumps sites across the country in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s not too late to join them in Operation Freefall. [read more]

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  New Organization Supports Sexual Assault Victims Through Grants During Prosecution
     
  The parents of a rape survivor have launched a foundation to help sexual assault victims by providing grants to allow their families or other support persons to attend the criminal trial. Grants through the It Happened to Alexa Foundation are intended for rape victims who are about to testify in the criminal trial and who reside a significant distance from the trial venue.
 
It was September 1999 when Tom and Stacey Branchini drove their 18 year-old daughter, Alexa, from Buffalo to Boston for her first semester at Boston University. Ten days later they received the call that every parent dreads: "Your daughter is in the hospital--she's been raped."
 
A stranger, Abdelmajid Akouk had broken into her dormitory through a window. He hid in a shower stall of the hallway bathroom and attacked Alexa at knife-point when she went to get a drink of water.
 
The Branchinis were relieved that Alexa was alive, and that police had apprehended the rapist the night of the attack, before he'd even left the campus. But it was only the beginning of Alexa's ordeal.
 
Over the next several months the Branchinis discovered what rape victims go through, and realized why so few victims report. It took 18 months and several continuances before the case went to trial, which lasted three weeks.
 
While Akouk had claimed mistaken identity when first apprehended, his strategy shifted to the consent defense once DNA evidence confirmed his link to the crime. Alexa was grilled by the defense attorney for four hours. Ultimately, Akouk was sentenced to 40-45 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
 
"We were relieved at the outcome, and that it was finally over, but we could not imagine Alexa or any other rape victim having to go through that traumatic court appearance alone," Tom Branchini told SATI e-News. "It made us think about other families who might not have the financial resources that would allow them to be there," Branchini added. Alexa and her family made several trips to Boston due to continuances.
 
Alexa had withstood numerous tactics by the defense attorneys to break her will, and her testimony was critical to the conviction of Akouk. The family decided to honor their daughter's courage and bravery by establishing a grant program to help other victims and their families.
 
The It Happened To Alexa Foundation hopes to encourage more sexual assault victims to report to law enforcement, so that sex offenders can be brought to justice. Currently, only one in three rapes is ever reported to law enforcement, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
 
The Foundation's grant process requires the victim to submit an application, which the prosecutor must sign to confirm the details of the case. The grant application is to be submitted after an indictment is made and a trial date has been set. Awards range up to $3,000 per case. The grant application and additional eligibility guidelines are available at www.ithappenedtoalexa.org. Brochures about the grant program are available for sex crimes professionals for distribution to rape victims, upon request to info@ithappenedtoalexa.org.
 
The Foundation received a grant from the Million Dollar Roundtable Foundation, which will help fund the first round of awards.

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  Attorney General Announces $1 Billion Commitment to Eliminate DNA Backlog
     
  Attorney General John D. Ashcroft announced that the administration
will commit $1 billion over the next five years to process a massive
backlog of genetic samples nationwide. The DNA Initiative is expected to help solve thousands of cold cases by processing DNA evidence from 350,000 crime
scenes, including rape kits, and 300,000 convicted offender samples which remain unevaluated (National Institute of Justice estimates). Read more.

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  DNA News From Around the Country
     
  The following news summaries in this section are reprinted with permission from the DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, a government affairs firm that provides nationwide governmental affairs services to Applied Biosystems: www.dnaresource.com
 
SARTs/SANEs Struggle With Budget Cuts
 
In New York, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program designed to help rape victims get through hospital examinations following an attack could be dismantled soon unless hospitals and municipalities help finance the cost. The state funding that started the program has dried up. An area crime lab director indicated concern with the possible elimination of the program saying, "Fifty percent of the kits we get from non-SANE personnel are incomplete. It's not that hospital personnel aren't doing their best. They just don't have the experience dealing with these patients. This is all the SANE nurses do."
"Rape-Treatment Program May End." The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), February 19, 2003.
 
Editorial urges Syracuse, New York to save the local SANE program, saying that "SANE empowers victims and it arms prosecutors. It should be saved." Notes that only 65 percent of DNA samples in non-SANE kits were properly collected -- that compares to 91 percent in SANE kits. A university hospital has agreed to continue paying for SANEs, another hospital said it cannot afford to, and two other hospitals are still considering the matter.
"Keeping Sane." The Post Standard (Syracuse, NY),. March 5, 2003.
 
In Oakland County, Michigan, a county finance committee told the officials of the Sexual Assault Response Team (consisting of forensic nurses) that the $36,000 they gave last year to help fund the $150,000-a-year anti-abuse program was only temporary. The county is struggling to cut around $23 million from its estimated $510 million budget before the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The county drafted a resolution last year that said that if the program's officials came back for additional funding the following year, they must first go through the county's purchasing policies to become legal, Moss said. To do that, the nonprofit group must find a county department that will contract for that service.
"Sex, abuse trauma team to lose funds." The Detroit News, March 5, 2003.

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DNA Hits
 
In New York, a cold hit on the DNA database has resulted in a 165-year sentence for a man convicted of sexually assaulting two girls and a 67-year-old woman. The man was in prison from a 2000 conviction on unrelated charges of attempted burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property at the time the database hit was made.
"Judge gives 165 years to man in sex attacks." Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, March 8, 2003.
 
In Alaska, a judge sentenced a man to 25 years for the rape and assault of a university student. When the assault occurred, an innocent man was initially charged after being wrongly identified by witnesses as the attacker. However, a DNA sample from the suspect did not match the evidence and the man was released. Subsequently, police ran the DNA evidence through the DNA database, and it matched another man's DNA who was in the database due to a 1997 assault conviction.
"Alaska digest." Anchorage Daily News, March 7, 2003.
 
In Canada, a cold hit on the DNA database has linked a man to a string of unsolved rapes in the Toronto area. The man had never been a suspect in the rapes and police said the role of the national DNA database was "absolutely vital" in bringing charges. The man had been ordered to submit a DNA sample after an assault conviction last month. As of September 2002, the national databank had profiles from 27,756 offenders and 6,385 crime scenes. That allowed 359 matches between crime-scenes and suspects.
"DNA Leads To Sex Raps." The Toronto Sun, February 20, 2003.
 
In Georgia, DNA testing has linked a man to a 1977 murder, for which he had long been a suspect. Police always believed the man had committed the crime, but did not have sufficient proof until the case was reopened and DNA evidence was analyzed with new testing methods.
"DNA technology leads to arrest of man long suspected in 1977 Georgia slaying." The Associated Press, February 25, 2003.

In Texas, a construction worker has confessed to nine rapes and attempted sexual assaults. A tip from a victim and her husband about the car used by an assailant fleeing a November attack led police to the suspect, who was arrested after DNA testing linked him to three rapes. When the attacks first began to occur, police did not suspect a serial rapist, but DNA testing of rape evidence at the state lab linked several of the rapes together.
"Suspect arrested in rapes in Tyler." The Dallas Morning News, February 27, 2003.

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Crime Lab News, DNA Backlog
 
San Mateo, California is opening a new crime lab this month. The lab is set up to analyze DNA samples as well as blood, drug and human tissue samples for all of the county's law enforcement agencies, which serve 22 cities.
"San Mateo County to debut crime lab." Contra Costa Times, March 9, 2003.
 
In Missouri, a bill proposing construction of a regional crime lab in Springfield drew mixed responses primarily over whether the legislation could create competition between existing crime labs. The bill would create a statewide crime laboratory system by linking up existing labs in Kansas City, St. Louis, Joplin, Jefferson City and elsewhere to better process evidence in criminal cases. Southwest Missouri law enforcement officials have complained that DNA evidence would have to be sent to Jefferson City's lab where it could sit for a year or longer before being processed.
"Crime lab bill gets cool hearing." Springfield News-Leader, March 5, 2003.
 
Potential cuts looming for Michigan's state budget could include the state crime lab. The article reports that the group affected by such cuts will be victims and victims' families awaiting the analysis of DNA evidence taken from crimes scenes. The current wait for DNA analysis on homicides and violent crimes is at least a month. Cutting a proposed $125,500 from the $18 million crime lab budget could mean the waits for DNA results could be longer. "The service we're asked to provide is increasing and it's increasing at a time when we have less money," said Capt. Michael Thomas of the Michigan State Police crime lab. In 2002, his three labs handled 3,898 cases. At year's end there was a 1,137-case backlog. The lab also could get less training and might ask local investigators to send their five best DNA samples instead of the average of 10.
"Agencies try to gauge depth of cuts." Lansing State Journal, February 21, 2003.
 
In Michigan, demand for DNA testing is overwhelming the 26 DNA scientists who work at seven state police labs across Michigan. The labs, whose backlog of cases numbers in the thousands, are required by law to offer free forensic services to every police and sheriff's department in Michigan. "Addressing the backlog is a priority of ours and the governor. We will look under any rock we can" to find more funding, said a spokesman for the Michigan State Police. In the meantime, some cities are paying private labs to do DNA and other forensic tests. The backlog in the state's DNA labs has reached about 65,000 cases, including active, cold cases and database searches. Thomas said they processed about 2,000 active cases last year.
"Combing through the DNA backlog." Detroit Free Press, March 7, 2003.
 
The Alabama Department of Forensic Science wants its budget grant doubled to about $15 million. The Department needs more personnel and better buildings. The increased budget would allow the agency to increase its staff from 174 to 232 people, buy equipment and reduce delays in lab tests that slow the criminal justice system. Without an increase, the Department will lay off scientists and cut services. Already, it takes about two years to obtain results of a DNA test, although that varies according to case priority.
"Forensics lab joins cash rush." The Montgomery Advertiser, February 20, 2003.
 
In Louisiana, hundreds of men have submitted DNA samples for exclusion testing in the hunt for a serial murderer. The samples are being analyzed quickly, which is a stark contrast to the over 10,000 samples taken from state prisoners and rape kits which have not been tested in the state. One local crime lab indicates that up to one half of the rape kits get backlogged and rapes with unknown suspects "usually get put aside." Funding is the biggest obstacle, and a citizen group called Community Partners for Forensic Science is forming in Baton Rouge to appeal to private citizens, corporations and politicians for money to test the backlog of evidence in unsolved rapes. They hope to raise $1.36 million for rape kit testing. In a pilot program under way only in Iberia Parish, authorities sample anyone arrested on a felony count, at the same time they are fingerprinted. Police want to expand the program to all 64 parishes within a year.
"La. pushing use of DNA in investigations." Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), February 23, 2003.
 
[Meanwhile], Louisiana authorities still have not determined what to do with perhaps 1,000 DNA profiles catalogued by the task force investigating the south Louisiana serial killings. The samples are not eligible for inclusion in the FBI's federal DNA database there is no other provision for using them in the future. But in the meantime, "to destroy evidence that exonerates somebody is just as illegal [as it is] to destroy evidence that convicts someone." Police may seek a court order to destroy the samples.
"DNA a legal issue in serial killer cases." Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), February 23, 2003.

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Challenges to DNA Evidence
 
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the state's crime lab operated under appropriate scientific standards when it started using a new type of DNA testing on blood, hair and other materials in 1999. The test has been used in about 2,000 sexual assault cases and about 300 homicide cases. The ruling overturned an Appeals Court decision that found DNA evidence should not have been allowed because the testing did not comply with TWGDAM standards. Each specific test could still be scrutinized in court to see if officials collected evidence and performed the tests correctly.
"State high court OKs new DNA testing method." Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), February 25, 2003.
 
In Arizona, defense attorneys are preparing to challenge DNA evidence in criminal cases based on reports of contamination in a Phoenix Police Department evidence-handling room. An October e-mail from the room's supervisor that warned the contamination could "seriously impact" cases, but officials contend there's no proof that the conditions of the evidence room compromised cases. Defense attorneys are calling for an audit of police records to pin down what cases could be affected. The majority of the problems were reported in 2002 from March to October.
"Phoenix DNA Evidence Under Fire." The Arizona Republic, March 8, 2003.
 
Houston's city council approved a $75,000 contract with Identigene to conduct DNA analysis for the Houston Police Department. The Harris County medical examiner's crime lab will conduct HPD's primary DNA testing, and Identigene will take cases the examiner's office cannot handle. Some forensics experts questioned HPD's choice of Identigene, saying it has limited experience and there is a potential conflict of interest because the company is vying for a long-term contract with the department. The Council also approved a $ 3.5 million contract with ReliaGene Technologies Inc. for DNA testing on "non-suspect" cases and backlogged sexual assault cases.
"Council rejects request to replace 250 city cars." The Houston Chronicle, February 20, 2003.

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DNA Relative to Statutes of Limitation
 
In Oklahoma, a man charged in a rape for which another man wrongfully went to prison lost his second challenge to a law that lets prosecutors pursue old sex crimes cases on new DNA evidence. The man's lawyers maintain the seven-year statute of limitations for the crime expired Oct. 29, 1994, and a new law that took effect in September 2002 "purporting to revive this time-barred prosecution" violated the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions. The District Judge became the second judge to reject this challenge.
"Man convicted of second-degree murder." The Associated Press State & Local Wire, March 1, 2003.
 
In New York, a man in prison for robbery has been convicted of raping and robbing two women in the 1990s. State courts have ruled that the statute of limitations does not apply when a suspect was never identified. It held that law enforcement has up to 10 years to prosecute suspects identified beyond the statute of limitations. Prior to this conviction, the man was due to be released from prison in two months.
"DNA Helps Convict Man As Rapist." The Buffalo News, February 28, 2003.
 
In Florida, a panel of experts is concerned with a two-year statute of limitations that expires this fall on raising DNA challenges to Death Row convictions. Thus far, the DNA challenges by inmates have been bogged down by disagreements over how the tests should be conducted. Inmates say they want independent examination of the DNA. Agencies, like the Broward Sheriff's Office, say they should do the DNA tests. Of 123 recent death row exonerations, 25 are from Florida.
"Death of DNA law seen as fiasco." The Miami Herald, March 7, 2003.

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Constitutionality Issues Related to Offender/Suspect DNA
 
A suit filed by all convicted felons in New York was dismissed after a district court ruled that DNA identification was warranted due to overwhelming public interest in prosecuting crimes accurately and balancing the welfare of society. The inmates argued that their constitutional rights were violated when their DNA was involuntarily extracted from them and placed in the state's index, in the absence of a warrant, probable cause or individualized and reasonable suspicion to believe they committed a crime for which their DNA could be used to prosecute them. The court found that DNA samples provide no evidence in and of themselves of criminal wrongdoing; a convicted felon's expectation of privacy in the identifying information contained in DNA is particularly weak compared with those of other individuals; and the intrusiveness of the program is diminished by the blanket approach to sampling mandated by the statute. Nicholas, et al., v. Goord, et al., No. 01Civ.7891(RCC)(GWG) (S.D.N.Y. 02/06/03).
"DNA extraction from inmates upheld in New York." Corrections Professional, March 3, 2003.
 
A New Jersey District Court has found that a defendant in a criminal case does not have a constitutional right to DNA testing prior to trial. In this case, the plaintiff was arrested and remained in jail for nearly 22 months before all charges were dismissed. The plaintiff alleges that, during his incarceration, he requested a DNA test that he contended would prove his innocence. Once the testing was finally completed, the test results were "inconclusive" and he was then released from prison. CASE-INFO: No. 02-245; United States District Court [DNJ]; opinion by Rodriguez, U.S.D.J.; filed February 20, 2003. DDS No. 46-7-2923.
"Jimenez v. State of New Jersey, United States District Court, New Jersey." New Jersey Law Journal, March 3, 2003.

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Expanding DNA Database to Convicted Felons
 
The Nebraska legislature recently held a hearing on a proposal to expand the state DNA database to include all convicted felons. The committee heard information gathered from other states on the benefit of including all felons, particularly burglary. However, cost is a significant concern to the state. The sponsor has proposed that the state could collect the DNA and store it until the State Patrol applies and receives federal grants. In the meantime, he asked the Legislature to establish the best laws it could -- "Let's do it right now that we're getting in to the ball game," he said.
"Bills would establish Nebraska DNA database." University Wire, February 28, 2003.
 
In Arizona, a Senate committee refused to expand the state's “all convicted felons” DNA database to include all felony arrests. The bill failed by one vote in the committee, with all the Democrats voting in favor and the Republicans voting against it. Democrats felt that including people accused of crimes would help exonerate some suspects while implicating others. Republicans had several objections which included budget concerns.
"Senate panel rejects expanded anti-crime DNA testing." The Associated Press State & Local Wire, February 26, 2003.
 
In Nevada, an Assembly committee has approved a bill that would expand the state's DNA database by making it retroactive to include offenders convicted before DNA profiling was common practice. The bill would also include DNA from parolees who move to Nevada after serving time for a crime in another state that would have required a DNA sample if committed in Nevada. The measure, however, only requires the sampling from people who fail to register with local police - who must catch the people first. Most people who fail to register are only caught after committing another crime.
"Nevada Assembly to take up DNA data collection." The Associated Press State & Local Wire, February 26, 2003.
 
In South Dakota, legislation has been enacted to expand the offender DNA database to include all convicted felons. The final vote in the House had only 5 "no" votes, with 62 members voting "yes."
"DNA bill passes final test." The Associated Press State & Local Wire, February 24, 2003.

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  Promising Practices: Message From the Desk of the SATI Training Director: SARTs and Collaboration By Joanne Archambault, Founder and Training Director, Sexual Assault Training & Investigations
 
Reprinted with permission from: GW Medical Publishing, Inc. Sexual Assault Victimization Across the Lifespan A Clinical Guide ISBN#1-878060-41-4.
   
   It is important that all Sexual Assault Response Team members; physicians, nurses, law enforcement, prosecutors, community based advocates and state victim witness assistance employees, understand the complexity of a sexual assault investigation. Each one of these disciplines may provide an important piece of the puzzle, however alone; none of these pieces provide a clear and credible picture of what happened. Juries must be provided with detailed information that will recreate for them what the victim experienced during the sexual assault. Only then will we be able to hold sex offenders accountable for their violent crimes.
 
Rape Crisis Center and Victim Witness Advocates will be better able to assist their clients if they have a thorough understanding of appropriate investigative procedures and possible criminal justice outcomes. Forensic examiners will be able to do a better examination and collect evidence more effectively if they are provided with crime lab results and feedback when the rape kits they collect are screened for evidence and profiled for DNA. Many law enforcement officers and prosecutors believe that a forensic examiner can tell them if the victim was “raped”. They need to be educated about what information a forensic examination can provide, i.e., evidence of sexual contact and documentation of injury that may be consistent or sometimes inconsistent, with the history provided by the victim.
 
Most importantly, law enforcement officers and prosecutors need to remember that forensic examiners are asked to collect forensic evidence which then needs to be examined by a trained criminalist before a conclusion is made as to whether probative evidence exists. However, the detection of forensic evidence and its analysis is only one step in an extremely complex investigation. Any evidence identified and subsequently tested must then be assessed and interpreted based on the history provided by the victim, witnesses and the suspect’s own statements. It is essential to evaluate the potential impact of all evidence. For example, the presence of incriminating DNA evidence involving the sexual assault of a child is often all that is needed since the suspect cannot effectively claim the act was consensual. However, sex offenders frequently use a consent defense in cases involving adolescents and adults. In these cases, the documentation of injuries, witness statements, and investigative tactics are critical to the successful prosecution of the offender.
 
To date, law enforcement has been provided with limited training opportunities concerning the forensic DNA revolution. Many investigators are not clear about how DNA technology might assist their investigation, nor do they understand what scientific procedures might be used to screen and profile their cases. Some agencies may only submit the victim’s rape kit while others submit the rape kit and other crime scene evidence such as clothing, foreign objects, condoms, seat cushions, etc.
 
Contributing to the problem is the fact that some law enforcement agencies have their own crime labs, others use their State Crime Lab while others may use the FBI or private laboratories. As a result, each of these agencies may have access to labs using different scientific procedures to screen and profile biological evidence. It is important to understand what screening methods are available, and what methods were used in a particular case, i.e., acid phosphatase, P30, microscopy, visual evaluation, alternate light source examination, Christmas Tree Stain, DNA, etc. In addition to variations in the scientific methods employed by crime labs, some hospitals and forensic examiner programs have conducted their own tests such as pap smears, or microscopy in an effort to identify evidence that might help shed light on the investigation and the possible outcome.
 
When evaluating whether probative evidence exists, it is important to understand the significance of the evidence collected and the methods employed to screen and characterize the evidence. Many other issues may also surface during the course of a criminal investigation. The crime lab may find DNA, however, a match in the state and national database cannot be made and law enforcement is unable to identify a suspect through traditional investigative means. A DNA match may be made several years after the assault, and the victim cannot be found or when recontacted, the victim may be unwilling or unable to participate in a trial, often times as a result of the sexual assault. In other cases, the DNA testing results may refute all the other evidence in the case. In many cases, the detective might conduct a thorough investigation and the forensic evidence corroborates the victim’s allegations, however, the prosecuting agency did not feel that there was enough evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the case is rejected.
 
Finally, it is important to understand the statistical approach used to express the significance when two DNA profiles match. Because of the various DNA typing methods previously available and their continued evolution, cases within the same series and year may contain different DNA profile information. For example, PCR DQA1/Polymarker match frequencies are commonly one in several thousand while Short Tandem Repeats are one in several billion. In addition, many detectives and prosecutors are surprised and disconcerted when a lab report comes back simply stating that the suspect could not be excluded or that the suspect can be included when we expect to hear an unequivocal statement of confirmation.
 
It is essential to understand the role of the criminalist and how he or she will be required to testify about their findings in court. To successfully investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, it is critical we recognize the complexity of these cases and the many obstacles we have to overcome to prosecute sex offenders. One of the first steps is making sure that we are providing multi-disciplinary training and that our efforts to collaborate move beyond having a written protocol. Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners must have access to crime lab results, detectives should be able to communicate directly with the Criminalist who is evaluating the evidence from an assault, while Advocates should be educated about investigative procedures and kept informed so that the Survivor can be apprised of the status of the investigation and her options at all times. If members of the team do not have access to each other and the information we can each provide, we are failing to collaborate. Without true collaboration, the criminal justice system will most likely continue to fail to hold most sex offenders accountable.
 
This article was adapted from the chapter on DNA Evidence in Sexual Assault, co-authored by Joanne Archambault.
 
Copyright Notice: © 2003 GW Medical Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission from: GW Medical Publishing, Inc. Sexual Assault Victimization Across the Lifespan A Clinical Guide ISBN#1-878060-41-4. Lead Authors: Angelo Giardino MD, Elizabeth Datner MD, Janice Asher, MD. Available at www.gwmedical.com or orders@gwmedical.com
 
Sexual Assault: A Comprehensive Color Atlas, Volume 2, ISBN 1-878060-61-9, Lead Authors: Barbara W. Girardin, RN, PhD, Diana K. Faugno, RN, BSN, CPN, FAAFS, Mary J. Spencer MD and Angelo P. Giardino, MD, PhD, is also available, separately or as a two volume set.

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