AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

State forensic lab deluged with untested DNA from sexual assault cases

An effort to test neglected DNA from sexual assault cases has led agencies to deluge the state’s forensic labs with evidence in recent months, a lab official said.

Most of these 900 packages of evidence, known as rape kits, came from Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, said Cleveland Miles, a forensic biology manager at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Grady began transferring kits to GBI this summer after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found that the hospital had been locking them away in file cabinets since 2000--even when victims wanted them tested.

Last year, GBI tested a total of 1,100 rape kits, Miles said.

The remainder of the recently-arrived kits came from law enforcement agencies across the state, Miles said. Agencies have been cataloging and analyzing their untested kits as part of a national effort, and Georgia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council recently received $2 million from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to fund testing.

GBI officials have yet to determine how it will accommodate the additional caseload, Miles said. Options include hiring more staff or outsourcing.

“In all fairness, those kits didn’t accumulate overnight, so we can’t test them overnight,” Miles said.

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