It's important to revisit unsolved stranger rapes, but there's a big gap in SAPD's proposed scope of testing. We know that "The majority of the remaining untested kits are from cases where the suspect is known, and either no sexual assault occurred or the suspect’s DNA wasn’t needed for a conviction." But that means that there are quite a few rape cases in the mix where convictions were achieved but the DNA evidence from the rape kit was never tested.
For the past three months, SAPD has gone back through its 5,191 untested kits to determine which ones need to be tested.
The department discovered 57 of the reported untested kits had actually been tested but had not been updated in the department’s records.
The majority of the remaining untested kits are from cases where the suspect is known, and either no sexual assault occurred or the suspect’s DNA wasn’t needed for a conviction, SAPD said.
Plus, if a suspect is convicted of a sexual assault, the offender’s DNA information would be submitted into a database by the state, so there was no need for SAPD to test it.
Unlike many cities, over the years SAPD has kept these kits. The department said it is re-evaluating its policy on keeping old rape kits.
So after going through the kits, SAPD said it really has 121 untested rape kits.
Chief William McManus said in November that all of these stranger rape kits would be tested.
So far, 38 have been sent off to the lab. SAPD said the kits from stranger rape kits will soon be sent off as well.
It could be a year before all the results are known.
Just as Dallas did under the leadership of its District Attorney Craig Watkins, San Antonio needs to vet those old convictions to identify cases where the defendant pled "not guilty" and was convicted anyway based on eyewitness or other testimony. That's exactly the category of case that led to so many DNA exonerations in Dallas, but in SA they're not planning on testing such cases. There's a very good chance DNA evidence might exonerate some of those men, but it can't happen if nobody looks at the cases and notifies defendants there's new evidence related to their conviction.
What's more, it should be District Attorney Susan Reed leading this effort, not the police. After all, it's the DA's job to evaluate the probity of evidence as it relates to possible post-conviction claims, and to turn evidence over to the defense when it could be exculpatory. In Dallas when they discovered a similar cache of old rape kits, the DA teamed up with the Innocence Project of Texas to go through old cases, both to provide credibility and additional resources in performing the task. That would probably be the best model in Bexar County as well. It's simply not enough for the cops to look at the list on their own, ignore possible innocence cases, then announce, "Move along, nothing to see here."
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