Kits to be tested with grant

Published 10:10 pm Friday, February 5, 2016

Evidence from 18 sexual assaults in Suffolk will be tested using a grant, officials announced this week.

State Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced his office had plans to test more than 2,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits across the state. It is part of a $1.4 million grant from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s $38 million initiative to test 56,000 kits in 20 states.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink said 18 kits from Suffolk cases will be tested through the program. The oldest one dates from 2010, she said.

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The kits have not gone untested for lack of funding, though there are a variety of reasons they have not been tested. Klink said prosecution was declined in six of the cases. In three cases, the victim elected not to participate further in the criminal justice process, Klink said. In two cases, the kit was not relevant for evidentiary purposes — perhaps because the suspect claimed the contact was consensual — or was not necessary for prosecution because the suspect confessed.

Three reports were deemed unfounded, one report was anonymous, one victim was uncooperative and one was found to be consensual, Klink said. There was one other kit that was not tested for an unspecified reason.

Klink said the Virginia Department of Forensic Science typically pays to get the kits tested.

Despite the factors that initially caused the kits to go untested, Klink said the tests still are important.

“The importance of sending this evidence to the lab would primarily be to identify any repeat offenders that may be previously unknown when a victim does not wish to prosecute or have their case investigated,” Klink wrote in an email.

The evidence kits, known as physical evidence recovery kits or PERKs, contain evidence collected from victims during an extensive examination conducted at a hospital or crisis center following a sexual assault, according to a press release from Herring’s office.

“The DNA evidence contained in PERKs is a powerful tool for identifying suspects, convicting perpetrators, preventing future offenses and even exonerating the innocent,” Herring’s press release stated.

“Testing these kits is so important to help identify predators and to make connections between unsolved crimes, but it’s also really important to show survivors that the commonwealth stands with them and will help them pursue justice as part of their healing process,” Herring was quoted as saying in the press release. “I’m really glad we’re getting the testing under way and I appreciate the hard work of my team, our steering committee, and our partners at DFS and in local law enforcement agencies. This is a big project, but we’re going to see it through.”