Reasons Why Over 7,000 Rape Kits Remain Untested In Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY - Just over a year ago, Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order that instructed a special task force to investigate the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the state. Today, that task force held a meeting to release some of its findings.
News 9 has learned that over 7,000 rape kits have still not been tested, and there is no clear plan for the future.
A leader of the task force said one reason the kits have not been tested yet lies within a lack of funding.
“If we had the money we could submit them all for testing immediately. But, right now it's an issue of prioritizing and determining which one's are most important, which cases can be prosecuted, which cases is there a reason to move forward now,” Chief of Victim Services Unit, Melissa Blanton of the Attorney General’s Office said.
Melissa Blanton says the amount of untested kits are simply too much for the state financially.
However, she says new cases do not add to back log numbers.
But no matter the investigation, victims of rape are standing up for one another.
“Ordering benchmark points, so that so many rape kits are done per month, per week, until the backlog is taken care of, and put a system in place so this doesn't happen again,” rape survivor Brenda Golden said.
Data compiled by the task force shows a variety of reasons why the kits were not sent to OSBI immediately for testing:
- 2 percent say cases were out of jurisdiction
- 3 percent say the suspect was known and claims of consensual sex
- 4 percent say there was no reason listed
- 6 percent say the case was adjudicated
- 8 percent say no reporting requested by victim
- 8 percent say victim declines to pursue charges
- 14 percent say the District Attorney Declined to File
- 23 percent say there was a lack of victim cooperation
- 32 percent listed as other and offered no explanation as to what that meant
Oklahoma City and Tulsa analyze their own rape kits according to investigators, but the governor says there are still around 60 agencies throughout Oklahoma that still have not submitted their testing data. That’s down from about 120 when the task force began.
“We are making great progress, I am happy to report, but still not good enough,” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said.
Task force members say the addition of those agencies added about 15 cases to the backlog.
Many of the previously marked unreported agencies simply did not supply statistics because they say they had zero untested kits.
However, members of the task force say over the years some kits have been destroyed.
That’s because they say there is no mandate in Oklahoma which dictates how long the evidence must be stored regarding the cases.
Investigators believes by testing the DNA now, even from decades ago, they could prosecute criminals who could be connected to other crimes.
“Uncover suspects, new suspects. If we look back at some of the cases from the 80's, even 90's, before a lot of AND evidence was around. We have the ability to test even more now,” Blanton said.
The task force recommends creating a better audit program for sexual assault crimes.
Members say they will be working with the legislature as well as other agencies to obtain necessary funding.