An update on Tulsa's serial rapist case. Detectives don't know whether the man who sexually assaulted a 6-year old girl this week, is the same man who assaulted five other girls, because they can't get DNA tests done.
The reason is Tulsa's police lab did not get its state required accreditation on July 1st. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright explains what that means for pending court cases.
A new Oklahoma law requires all state forensic labs to be accredited by a professional group called ASCLAD by July 1st, 2005. There are two parts to the accreditation, first is the technical side of the lab. Tulsa Police Deputy Chief Bill Wells: "the technical side deals with our scientists and the results they are using and the techniques and they can be duplicated and we are 100 percent on the technical side."
The second part is administrative, files and records and there was at least one area that did not meet proper standards. That area has been fixed and the lab will most likely be accredited when the inspector comes back August 1st. But in the meantime, the lab is not doing DNA tests, because without accreditation, those results would be thrown out during a trial.
However, Wells says the lab is testing things like drugs and fingerprints because scientists can still present those results during pre-trial hearings and if a trial comes up later, those items can be re-tested. "Fingerprints are static and can be tested anytime, as are firearms so we'll go on and test those, but with DNA, we'll be more particular." That's because DNA samples are often so small, that testing, destroys them which means there wouldn't be enough left to re-test. And, rather than risk it being thrown out of a trial, they'll wait until after August 1st, which is why the sample from the most recent sexual assault is just sitting in the lab. "We're almost assured when we catch this guy, it will go to trial and we might as well wait, instead of testing it improperly, not testing it improperly but, while we're out of compliance with state law."
Detectives are frustrated they must wait to know if the serial rapist is responsible for this most recent attack. Plus, they have samples from possible suspects that need to be tested so officers will know if the men can be ruled out or could be the rapist.
The Tulsa Police Department points out it missed the deadline by 30 days and after August 1st; this will all be a non-issue. Of course, detectives who are frantic about this serial rapist and they want results as fast as possible.