New state report recommends legislative fixes around sexual assault kits

New state report recommends legislative fixes around sexual assault kits

Additional funding for cold cases investigations also suggested

An advisory group convened by the state Attorney General’s Office released its report to the Legislature and governor on Monday that calls on the Legislature to provide resources for the investigation and prosecution of cold cases, and to establish a statewide practice of collecting court-ordered DNA samples.

The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Best Practices Advisory Group compiled the report. The group was created by bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) and Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) and supported by Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Both legislators also serve as advisory group co-chairs.

“This report proposes important next steps toward justice for sexual assault survivors,” Ferguson said in a news release. “My office looks forward to working with the Legislature to implement these recommendations.”

“I am proud of what Washington state has done to support survivors of sexual violence, none of which could have been done without the leadership of the Attorney General’s Office, the SAFE Task Force and the Legislature,” said Orwall, whose 33rd District includes parts of Kent. “Together, we are building a better, more informed system, so that no survivor in our state ever has to wonder again if their rape kit was tested.”

In 2019, the Legislature unanimously passed legislation establishing the advisory group within the Attorney General’s Office. The group’s mission is to reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits, and to review best practices for managing all aspects of sexual assault investigations. The group includes representatives from the Legislature, law enforcement, the medical community, victim advocates and survivors.

The report details the state’s progress towards reducing the number of untested rape kits in Washington state and highlights recent reforms implemented by the Legislature and others to reduce the backlog, according to the news release. The report also includes recommendations to improve justice for survivors of sexual assault.

As of the end of October, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab had completed testing on 3,154 backlogged sexual assault kits, which resulted in 440 new DNA hits. Of those 440 new hits, 76 matched more than one case.

In this report, the group unanimously recommended that the state provide resources to support law enforcement and prosecutors as they investigate and prosecute cold cases arising from new DNA matches. Testing backlogged kits has already led to the prosecution of cold cases. In one case, a kit was collected in 2007, but remained untested until December 2017. Ten years after the sexual assault, the suspect was charged with child rape.

The report also recommends that the state establish a uniform practice of collecting DNA samples from qualifying offenders in the courtroom at the time of sentencing.

When a person is convicted of a crime, such as sexual assault, they are sometimes ordered by the court to provide DNA samples for the national DNA evidence database, known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).

Currently, the practices for collecting court-ordered DNA samples vary between counties, and can result in samples not being collected.

Attorney General’s Office research estimates more than 30,000 felony offenders across Washington were ordered to provide a DNA sample at sentencing pursuant to state law, but such samples were never collected from them, thus depriving CODIS of tens of thousands of DNA profiles that should be in the database and available for comparison to profiles developed from sexual assault kits.

The office recently obtained a grant as part of its Sexual Assault Initiative that will, in part, fund investigators to find information on offenders who have yet to provide a court-ordered DNA sample.

The full list of recommendations:

• Provide resources for the investigation and prosecution of cold cases.

• Convene an advisory group to develop standard protocols for access to victim advocacy services in hospitals.

• Store unreported sexual assault kits and any additional items collected during a forensic examination at local law enforcement agencies with funding appropriated.

• Store unreported sexual assault kits and any additional items collected during a forensic examination for 20 years. This period should be reconsidered and lengthened if the statute of limitations is changed or eliminated.

• Collect DNA samples from qualifying offenders in the courtroom at the time of sentencing.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Supreme Court rules officers can be compelled to testify about killings

In a joint lawsuit against King County, the Washington State Supreme Court… Continue reading

Harvey Page
Sheriff’s office issues SILVER alert for missing Shoreline senior citizen

The King County Sheriff’s Office has issued a SILVER alert for 75-year-old… Continue reading

Photo courtesy WSDOT.
Transportation Commission wants your help naming next ferry

Construction of a new, hybrid electric Olympic Class ferry is expected to… Continue reading

Photo courtesy WSDOT
Traffic alerts | July 22

All lanes of SR 99 northbound and southbound at the 1st Avenue… Continue reading

Photo courtesy WSDOE.
Single-use plastic bag ban begins Oct. 1 in Washington

Washingtonians will begin to see fewer plastic bags littering the state’s roadsides,… Continue reading

Courtesy photo WSDOT,
TRAFFIC ALERT

I-90 Westbound, 7:37 a.m. : On the I-90 westbound on-ramp from East… Continue reading

Here is damage to the windshield of one of the vehicles struck in the Tuesday, July 20 debris-throwing incident.
Troopers arrest 41-year-old Seattle man for throwing debris into traffic

Troopers responded to reports of rocks/debris being thrown at cars on WB… Continue reading

The King County Sheriff's Office asks for the public's help for information leading to the arrest of the pepetratrator of the July 18 fatal hit and run on this street near Maple Valley. Courtesy photo, KCSO.
KCSO seeks public’s help finding perpetrator of July 18 hit-and-and-run fatality near Maple Valley

Detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office Major Accident Response and Reconstruction… Continue reading

infographic created by Coltura
Study suggests that the top 10 percent of gasoline-using drivers consume one-third of all the gas

Researchers believe converting “gasoline superusers” is an important factor in meeting climate goals

Most Read