I-Team

Local lawmaker proposes bill to address untested rape kits

Monday, January 20, 2014
, Chief Investigative Reporter
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Eight months after the ABC7 News I-Team uncovered thousands of untested rape kits, sitting in police property rooms around the Bay Area, a state lawmaker has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning to announce a new bill to address the problem.

The I-Team investigation last May featured rape victim Heather Marlowe, who met her attacker at the 2010 Bay To Breakers race. She contacted police, went through a four-hour long sexual assault exam, yet the DNA sample that might have identified her attacker went untested for years. This past Friday, she filed a complaint with the San Francisco Police Commission.

"The evidence is just sitting unprocessed because apparently in San Francisco, you know, the crime of rape is not considered that serious," said Marlowe.

After our report, the San Francisco Police Department promised a complete audit of the department's property rooms, looking for untested kits. Despite repeated promises that the audit was almost done, it's still not finished.

"And having it been so mishandled is a complete and utter lack of care and respect," said Marlowe.

"In the case of Heather, she didn't know right away. She didn't know for the longest time that her kit was not tested," said Assm. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

The I-Team interview with Marlowe got the attention of Skinner, who has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning to announce Assembly Bill 1517. That bill says law enforcement would have five days to send DNA evidence from a rape kit to a crime lab, the lab would have 30 days to upload the DNA profile to the state database and the bill would also require law enforcement to inform the victim, if they can't meet those deadlines.

Skinner tells the I-Team it's all about catching criminals.

"The sad thing is the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults are by someone that's known to you. But if that person did that, it's not unique to you. They could very well be doing that somebody else," said Skinner.

The I-Team investigation in May found thousands of untested rape kits at law enforcement agencies around the bay. And now, Marlowe sees the new bill as a relief.

"And I think it would result in a lot of criminals being prosecuted and further the safety of our city," said Marlowe.

A bill to test all rape kits actually passed three other times, but governors Schwarzenegger and Brown vetoed them, based largely on cost. Skinner hopes with the economy improving, Brown will sign it this time.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
laws, crime, SFPD, sex crimes, i-team, dan noyes
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