State gives $4M to help test rape kits in Wayne County

Gov. Rick Snyder, attorney general, Wayne County prosecutor make announcement in Lansing

By Halston Herrera - Digital news editor

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder and top law enforcers announced Wednesday that $4 million will be used to test thousands of unprocessed rape kits in the city of Detroit.

Snyder was joined by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in Lansing for the announcement.

"It' the right thing to do because there are people who have been victims that are in these kits that deserve justice. It's right for our criminal justice system because there are bad people out there who should be put away," Snyder said. "This will allow us to do that and I know with the prosecutor's assurance that she will be prosecuting those people."

The state in 2009 discovered 11,300 untested kits dating back 25 years in a Detroit Police Department storage facility. Since Detroit's crime lab was closed, the state has been handling forensic testing for the police and county prosecutors.

It can cost $1,500 to test a rape kit, and limited funding makes it tough to reduce the backlog.

Schuette said the money will come from settlement funds from his office.

"Twice women were violated, once by the rape and then second the justice was put in a box and put on a shelf. That's going to end now with this team effort," Schuette said. "The very first responsibility of government is public safety. The scope of failure about not examining these rape kits is almost impossible to quantify, comprehend, to fathom. It's outrageous. That's the problem and now we're going to fix it."

The funds were included in an appropriation for the State Forensics Laboratory Fund in his proposed supplemental budget, which is currently under review by the legislature.

"It was a great day, a fabulous day, when the attorney general called me and said that he was making available funds that will allow thousands of rape kits to be tested," Worthy said. "That was better news than manna from heaven."

Project 400

"Project 400" had previously been created in an effort to test 400 randomly selected kits in order to determine the nature of the evidence and what kinds of cases are connected to the evidence.

Since the completion of Project 400, an additional 1,600 kits have been submitted for testing.

To date, 569 have made it through the lengthy testing process.

"My office has been hard at work with these 11,303 rape kits for four years. Testing is very expensive, and already approximately $1.5 million in federal grant funds have been secured from the National Institute of Justice and over $50,000 in private donations have been allocated for this purpose," Worthy said. "To date, 569 kits have been tested with those funds. Of those tested, we found 136 CODIS (DNA) ‘hits' in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and 32 serial rapists have been identified. With the money that will be provided today for further testing, thousands more kits can be tested. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office is committed to prosecuting every single case that can be prosecuted as a result of these hits."

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