Forensic Science Center showcases success of novel project for technical review of sexual assault cases
Jason Chute, Marshall University Forensic Science Center DNA technical leader, presented information about the successful pilot project to review and expedite sexual assault kit cases for the Michigan State Police (MSP) at the Bode Mid-Atlantic: DNA and Investigators Conference in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, last month.
Individuals from crime laboratories and law enforcement, as well as attorneys, attended the event to receive training regarding policy, impact, and technology that affect the law enforcement and legal communities.
Chute was asked to discuss a novel approach that involved MUFSC forensic laboratory staff providing DNA technical review of sexual assault cases for the MSP. The presentation provided an overview of the strategies, challenges and successes that were encountered during development and implementation of the project.
A few years ago, the Michigan State Police was faced with addressing a backlog of over 8,000 sexual assault kits from Detroit that needed to be tested. To help address the backlog, Marshall’s Forensic DNA laboratory had previously worked with the MSP to provide assistance with the processing and DNA analysis of over 800 untested sexual assault kits for a project funded by the National Institute of Justice.
More recently, the MSP had outsourced DNA testing of thousands of kits to private labs, and analytical reports from those cases needed to be reviewed.
To help expedite the review process of cases, the MSP approached MUFSC about participation in a pilot project to help complete reviews of the outsourced analytical data and over a one-year period, MUFSC completed reviews of about 2,400 cases tested by the private labs for MSP.
The project helped to expedite these cases for entry into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). A CODIS hit links either a DNA profile from a forensic case to another case or to an offender profile. These hits provide investigative leads for law enforcement officers to follow.
Chute called the project a win-win situation. “We provided Michigan State Police with a highly qualified and highly trained workforce to help reduce their backlog, and we generated economic development for us and helped to address their needs,” he said.