Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Addressing Rape Kit Backlog


“A good idea is a good idea”, says the Star-Telegram. Especially when it comes to the health and well-being of women, some good ideas are better. To this end, almost everybody agrees, almost.


Creating a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry that will help eliminate the horrible backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits is a good idea, because it would expedite bringing sexual predators to justice.


Justice delayed is justice denied for victims of sex crimes. The delay means having to live with a nightmare every day of their lives, fearing their assailant is still on the prowl.


Texas State Senator Wendy Davis came to the rescue of these victims when she championed SB 1636, which imposes a time limit on processing these rape kits, some of which date back 20 years or more.


Women want Justice. Victims need closure.


U.S. Senator John Cornyn agreed and drafted a similar bill in the Congress. And amid great fanfare over the bill’s passage out the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Davis joined hands with Cornyn in celebration. A Democrat one hand and a Republican on the other, some issues are greater than both.


The vast backlog of unprocessed rape kits in Texas is currently being slowly aided along by federal grants, because most localities cannot afford the $1000 processing cost. This means, however, that as the backlog grows, sexual predators will be walking the streets.


Davis drafted SB1636 in order to force law enforcement agencies to give account of these unsolved rape cases and the backlog of DNA evidence. But some critics complained that it created an “unfunded mandate” upon local governments. Therefore, instead of forcing these agencies to bear a cost beyond their means, Davis softened the bill with the insertion “as funding became available”. As a result, SB1636 passed unanimously.

Where Davis’ SB 1636 leaves off, John Cornyn’s SAFER Act (S.3250) in the U.S. Congress picks up. It amends the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 and goes beyond the Debbie Smith grants to expedite auditing sexual assault evidence backlogs and to establish a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry.

NOTE: Society should spare no expense when it comes to Public Safety. And, though the wheels of Justice grind slowly, this state and federal legislation would help bring some closure to an old wound of unresolved cold cases.


Everybody believes this is good idea, right? Wrong.


State Representative Dr. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, voted against SB 1636. Considering all opposition removed, why would he, of all people, vote against it? Doesn’t he care about the health and well-being of women? After all, he is a pediatrician. Surely, he must have treated child rape victims.


Or, was it personal politics, a vindictive vote against Sen. Wendy Davis, who has become a champion of women’s causes in the state legislature, and whose senate seat he covets? If so, it appears that women’s health and well-being have taken a back seat to Shelton’s political aspiration. And, it would be a fair speculation to assume that he never laid eyes on the bill, nor seriously considered its discussion. So, how much more could he care for rape victims?


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