LAPD Destroyed Evidence in Sexual Assault Cases; Reform of Police Procedure Urged
The Los Angeles Police Department has admitted that inadequate training caused the destruction of DNA evidence from over 1,100 sexual assault cases. Detectives allegedly ordered the destruction of all DNA evidence over six years old because they were unaware that the California statute of limitations for rape had been extended from six years to ten years in 2001. The new statute extends the potential prosecution period to ten years from the offense, or within one year after a suspect is identified. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office estimates that destruction and loss of DNA evidence may have occurred in over 4,000 unsolved sexual assault cases in Los Angeles County in the last six years. None of the destroyed evidence was ever analyzed. This lapse in police protocol not only adversely impacts the thousands of women whose cases remain unsolved, but also affects innocent people who may now not be able to overturn their convictions.
Lack of DNA analysis in sexual assault cases is a widespread problem in police departments. Many departments claim that they’re unable to analyze all of their DNA rape kits due to lack of funding and costly analysis procedures. Considering that an average rapist commits between 8-12 sexual assaults before he is arrested, immediate analysis of DNA evidence is crucial to protecting women. In some states it’s even leading to indictments based solely on DNA evidence, regardless of whether or not a suspect has been identified, thus allowing for prosecution even if an arrest is made decades after the indictment. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York has authored a bill which will improve and standardize the process by which law enforcement analyzes DNA evidence from sexual assaults. The Debbie Smith Bill , which has been cosponsored by more than 100 of Maloney’s congressional colleagues, will provide resources for police departments to address their backlog of unanalyzed DNA kits, and will encourage departments to analyze each kit within 10 days of receipt. It will also fund the training of law enforcement officers and sexual assault nurse examiners, and will federally mandate the standardization of the DNA kits throughout the country. The bill, and its counterpart in the Senate, are currently under review, although hearings in the house have not been scheduled. If approved, the new funding would significantly improve the handling of sexual assault cases in the U.S.
Media Resources: Los Angeles Times, 07/30/02 & 7/31/02
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .