The most unrealistic part of any police procedural program such as Law and Order, or CSI is the speed and efficiency of forensic science. Within days of receiving a complaint the police receive definitive evidence of who committed the crime, they can then arrest the “bad guy” and the prosecution has an open and shut case. In this format the viewer is led to believe in a more elaborate fantasy world than the one with the fire-breathing dragons that dominated the ratings for nearly a decade.
In February the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) requested additional funding for DNA testing due to a backlog of over 3800 cases that they were not able to process quickly enough. This includes evidence from violent crimes as well as rape kits. Turnaround time for DNA evidence was estimated to be approximately 142 days. The Minnesota Legislature introduced HF 2034 on February 20, 2023, which would mandate labs to have a 90-day turnaround for the testing of rape kits, it has not yet made it out of committee. Furthermore, the BCA has set a goal to reduce overall turnaround time for DNA evidence to 30 days by 2025.
Backlogs of DNA evidence are not a new problem. In 2015 the Associated Press reported a nationwide backlog of DNA tests, particularly in reference to rape kits. Nationwide it was estimated that there were 400,000 rape kits that hadn’t been tested, when you factor in DNA evidence for other offenses the amount of evidence not being tested becomes astronomical. Due to these extreme numbers Minnesota lawmakers mandated the state to inventory their untested DNA evidence. It uncovered 3,482 untested rape kits.
In 2020 the Minnesota Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) was launched after receiving a $2 million grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. SAKI’s goal was to develop tracking and reporting systems and get through the backlog of untested kits. Because of this initiative the backlog is now down to 2,498.
The initiative just got its first conviction from these untested kits. On March 31, James Andrew Works was convicted of two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, on May 8th he was sentenced to 32 ½ years in prison. The event in question took place in June of 2010, but SAKI had the case reopened in 2021 based on the DNA evidence finally being tested. We can anticipate more cases being reopened as the backlog is worked through.
If you or someone you know has been charged with criminal sexual conduct, call us with questions or concerns. Simply call 763.421.6366 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.