Report: Testing old 'rape kits' led to new convictions, reveals new data about sex predators

By Doug G. Ware   |   June 6, 2016 at 6:51 PM

CLEVELAND, June 6 (UPI) -- The testing of thousands of forgotten police "rape kits" in the United States has led to more than 250 criminal convictions and justice for the victims -- and may change the way rape cases are investigated going forward, a new report said Monday.

The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force and researchers at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University have undertaken the monumental task of taking new looks at numerous cold cases.

Through their efforts, the parties have helped bring more than 250 rapists to justice and provide closure to the victims. The massive effort, researchers said, involved the testing of nearly 5,000 old kits -- which are bundles of evidence taken from the victims shortly after the assaults.

The kits were from unsolved cases between 1993 and 2010, officials said.

"These rape kits have been the greatest gold mine of information and leads for law enforcement that I have seen in my four-decade career," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said. "We are going to end up prosecuting a thousand criminals, and that will make our county significantly safer. But we also want to learn from mistakes that created this backlog and never allow them to be repeated."

In the process, scientists said, the new data has shown that serial rapists appear to be more common than previously thought -- which might have a major impact on the way such cases are investigated and prosecuted by authorities.

"By working together, we can help change the way sexual assaults are investigated and how the system and society view sexual assaults," co-lead researcher Daniel Flannery said. "We have an historical opportunity and obligation to make a difference."

"The thousand or more cases we expect to solve will help us understand the behavior of these career criminals ... This task force will prevent new victims from being attacked because these criminals will be in prison," McGinty added.

Researchers said the data also indicates that most rapists began raping before their first documented incident, and likely continued the criminal behavior after their last recorded assault. Also, three quarters of the rapists in the study had at east one prior felony arrest, indicating that sexual assault perpetrators have past criminal records.

"Now that we realize this, we cannot allow these kits to sit on shelves untested in the future," McGinty said. "They hold the keys to identifying and convicting dangerous criminals."

Advocates hope the new information will spur fundamental reform in the criminal justice system, which is sometimes accused of being far too lenient on sexual predators. In California, for example, a recall effort against a judge is underway after he recently sentenced a man to just six months in jail for raping an unconscious female student at Stanford University.

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