This Chicago Criminal attorney has posted here, here and here about the significance of DNA evidence. For a defense attorney, it’s a lot like having a video. It tends to either significantly strengthen the defense case on behalf of the accused or it can strengthen the government’s case against the accused. Looks like after a rash of exonerations and mea culpas for wrongly accusing (and frequently incarcerating) the innocent, Illinois is taking a stand.
Illinois has become the first state to require the testing of all DNA evidence gathered from sex crimes under a new law signed today by Gov. Pat Quinn.
The law, which does not provide new funding for the mandate, comes after a Tribune review found that many rape kits were being placed in police storage untested, depriving the state of opportunities to solves crimes and exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
"It's a landmark law," said Sarah Tofte, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, which has advocated for the testing of rape kits nationwide. "It could make Illinois a terrific model for the rest of the country."
"Thousands of rape kits are not tested," Quinn said. "That's not acceptable."
Starting Oct. 1, police departments will be required to submit all DNA evidence from sex crimes to the state crime lab within 10 days of collecting it. The lab will have to analyze the evidence within six months, but only "if sufficient staffing and resources are available."
By Oct. 15, law enforcement agencies must provide the crime lab with an inventory of all untested rape kits in their storage facilities. Within four months, the crime lab must submit to the Illinois attorney general and General Assembly a timeline and budget for analyzing the untested kits -- a number estimated at more than 4,000.
Yes, it will cost money to make sure the right person is charged, but already taxpayers have spent millions on trying to make amends to people wrongly accused and incarcerated.