AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

New York City picks up tab for Georgia to test DNA in rape case backlog

Georgia has thousands of packages of DNA evidence in rape cases sitting untested, even though they may contain the proof victims need to bring rapists to justice. Today, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the peach state has won nearly $2 million to test them, and Georgia taxpayers have New York City to thank.

The money comes from a $79 million federal effort to test backlogged rape kits nationwide. The New York County District Attorney’s Office provided some $38 million of those funds.

Georgia's $2 million share will go to the state's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the testing of an estimated 3,100 kits from jurisdictions across the state. Some will likely go to untested kits that have been piling up for more than a decade at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, according to a CJCC official.

As you'll recall, Grady is the sole rape crisis center for Fulton County's nearly 1 million residents, and victims routinely go to its emergency room for special exams that collect evidence of a sexual assault. The AJC revealed this summer that Grady withheld away as many as 1,500 rape kits from law enforcement, even when victims requested that the evidence be given over. Hospital staff also failed to report the crimes, despite a state law that required them to do so.

After publication of the AJC's story, the hospital began transferring the kits to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's forensic lab for storage, but there was no money to test the kits.

Problem solved? Well, not really. Law enforcement officials are still trying to determine how to handle these cases. Someone has to decide which ones to test first, and how to tell victims that their kits went untested. And prosecuting these cases could take years.

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