Lawmakers Visit Midland to Address Rape Kit Backlog 10/10/12
CBS 7 Reporter
October 10, 2012
Midland, TX - It's a story we brought you in a special report several months ago: the alarming backlog of untested sexual assault kits across the state and right here in West Texas.
State lawmakers visited the Basin Wednesday to thank local law enforcement for their dedication to fixing the problem and bringing awareness of the issue to the community.
Midland and Odessa alone reported a backlog of nearly 300 untested kits. Senator John Cornyn says getting people to report their backlog to DPS is the first step in truly understanding how big the problem really is. He says it's an issue the city of Midland is on top of and he hopes other cities will follow their lead.
Lennah Frost is a sexual assault survivor. She was attacked inside the comfort of her Midland home in the middle of the night.
"The guy who sexually assaulted me had a ski mask on so I couldn't see his face so I never knew what he looked like," Frost explains.
She couldn't describe him but after undergoing an invasive exam at the hospital, law enforcement had something even better: his DNA.
14 years later the same man attacked another woman and Frost got a surprising phone call from Police saying that her attacker had been caught.
"My sexual assault kit was one of the things that actually put the blame on him," she claims.
"This evidence, this DNA evidence is very powerful," says Senator Cornyn.
It can be the missing link in a sexual assault case but across the country 400,000 rape kits are sitting on a shelf untested. 15,000 of them are in the state of Texas alone.
"Prosecutions can't go forward, people who commit these crimes not once but many times can't be taken off the street," Cornyn says.
He is proposing the SAFER Act. The bill will redistribute funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and will also create a national registry to help track and prioritize untested rape kits.
Because, as in Frost's case, this evidence could be what puts a suspect behind bars.
"DNA is DNA and it doesn't change," Frost says.
Senator Cornynís legislation was recently approved by the senate judiciary committee and is awaiting vote by the full senate. Senator Cornyn says that the Midland Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies statewide to report their backlog.