Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SAPD won't examine DNA in possible innocence cases: DA should step in

The San Antonio PD will test a handful of old rape kits found in storage out of more than 5,000 discovered, reports KENS-5 News:

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.

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.

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."

RELATED: Test possible innocence cases in Bexar DNA cache

10 comments:

Lori Wilson said...

Grits, for a short laugh and a slow burn, check out this "study" on innocence or lack there of:
http://www.crimelabreport.com/library/pdf/contextual_contamination.pdf

The more I read, the madder I got.

gravyrug said...

I'm concerned about the cases where "no sexual assault occurred." How is that determined? Who makes that call? That's really a question for a different post, though.

As far as determining innocence, I can understand focusing on the "stranger rape" cases, since the vast majority of rapes involve an attacker known to the victim, which makes identification fairly straightforward. I'm not sure if that's an excuse to completely avoid testing, however.

John said...

Grits, It is so obvious from this and your previous writings that you hate Susan Reed and that you can't be fair to her. For the record, she has already given media interviews stating that ALL of the kits should be tested. As usual, you have not got all of the facts before writing, or, you just ignore them to suit your needs.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

So John, Mrs. Reed is powerless to act, in your view? Are her hands tied beyond giving quotes to the media (that I haven't seen and you haven't cited)? I don't recall Craig Watkins in Dallas waiting for the police department's permission, when the new DA took office he simply changed policies and began vetting the cases. The Bexar DA could have done the same, and still could, if she cared to.

BTW, via Google I can only find DA Reed supporting what the police department is doing - testing in stranger rape cases with unknown suspects. I find no public statements by her advocating testing "all of the kits." If what you say about her position is true, please provide evidence and I'll happily retract any incorrect information. Or maybe you're just making stuff up?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

John, I'm waiting ... don't disappoint me. You insist Reed supports testing in the innocence cases - please demonstrate that's true, since all the publicly available news coverage says otherwise.

John said...

Grits:

Now you are playing games. This has nothing to do with the innocence project. There are 5,191 untested rape kits at SAPD. DA Reed has said she belives they should all be tested. What Watkins did is totally differnt and you know it. Reed is not going over old cases to try to overturn convictions. She has nevr said she would do that. What she did say is that she thinks all of the untested kits should be tested. Then they go into CODIS to catch the bad guys. Don't look to me. YOU are the one who claims to be a journalist. Why don't you do your home work and find out for yourself? Too much like real work for you?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"DA Reed has said she belives they should all be tested. "

Where, John? Where did she say this? Give us a link. What are you talking about? Either you're misinformed or making things up. That is not true. If I'm wrong, link to the media accounts you're talking about.

I've searched on Google, Bing, and all I can find is her saying (as in the link provided) that kits in unsolved stranger rape cases should be tested - probably less than 200 total, she told the Express-News. She's said nothing remotely like what you're suggesting (which is frankly much more testing than even I'd advocate).

We agree that "Reed is not going over old cases to try to overturn convictions." Now, do you also agree that, if the cases where vetted for possible innocence claims, they might find a bunch just like in Dallas? If so, shouldn't those tests be done, too?

And might you also agree that, if all 5,191 cases were tested (as you say Reed supports, though I don't believe you), it would pick up any innocence claims? If so, then you're not really against testing for innocence as well as guilt, so I don't understand why you're so ginned up, except that you clearly don't have your facts straight and want to accuse me of something, anything, even if you can't back it up.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

From the SA Express News, Nov. 16: "District Attorney Susan Reed said she believes the number of untested rape kits that will eventually be analyzed as a result of the new policy is less than 200."

So where did she say to test all 5,191?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

John, where are you John?

You wrote that I had "not got all of the facts before writing, or, you just ignore them to suit your needs."

I've shown you my sources. It's your turn to put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

I guess "John" decided to shut up. Chalk one up for Grits!