(WOMENSENEWS)–A prosecutor says that Los Angeles County law enforcement officials have lost or destroyed evidence relating more than 1,000 rape and sex murder cases, USA Today reported Wednesday.
Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Lisa Kahn said rape kits containing hair, blood, semen and skin samples gathered by police and sheriff’s detectives were missing from the city police evidence lockers.
Kahn said authorities did not know “how bad things were” until they took an inventory. Scientists expected 3,000 to 6,000 rape kits but only 2,000 were found.
Under grants from California’s year-old, $50 million “cold hits” program, crime-lab scientists were planning to extract DNA from the missing samples and compare the results with state and national databases of DNA taken from 1 million convicts. It is widely believed that rapists and other sexual assailants compulsively repeat their crimes–setting them apart from many other types of felons.
Police and sheriff officials doubted the accuracy of Kahn’s estimates yet acknowledged that their departments until recently had routinely disposed of evidence in rape cases that fell outside the seven-year statute of limitations for prosecution. But the sheriff said he knew of no homicide cases where evidence was destroyed. There is not statute of limitations for murder. Other states are preserving the evidence beyond the point where the individual could be prosecuted for a particular sex crime because the evidence can be used for other purposes–establishing a pattern of behavior, for example.
In March, Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York introduced a bill that would set national standards for evidence collection and preservation. The bill also would provide federal funds to reduce backlogs in analyzing biological samples.