MADISON (AP) — The Wisconsin crime labs' efforts to review tests of unanalyzed rape kits delayed DNA testing in more than 300 other active cases over the last three years, according to estimates released Wednesday that illustrate the effect the project has had on analysts' workload.
The state Department of Justice began testing thousands of unanalyzed sexual assault evidence kits in 2016. Private labs have performed most of the work for the agency, but a team of state crime lab analysts still reviews the results.
The DOJ's report on 2018 crime lab performance noted the review team is made up of more than half of the state labs' DNA analysts. The team spent more than 4,850 hours on the sexual assault kit project. Assuming an average case takes 14 hours to complete, nearly 350 cases were delayed as a result of the time the team spent on the sexual assault test reviews, the report said.
Attorney General Josh Kaul's spokeswoman, Gillian Drummond, said the data stems from the last year of former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel's term.
"This is all information from the previous administration," she said. "That's important context."
She said she couldn't comment on the impact of the delays because the report is based on a mathematical projection based on hours spent working on sexual assault cases.
"This is all information from the previous administration. That's important context." — Gillian Drummond, Attorney General Josh Kaul's spokeswoman
Tens of thousands of sexual assault evidence kits have gone untested in the United States for a variety of reasons. A prosecutor may have decided a case was too weak to pursue or been forced to drop cases because victims wouldn't cooperate. Victim advocate groups have been pushing since 2014 for states to analyze the kits anyway in the hopes of identifying serial offenders.
According to the DOJ's website, as of Wednesday the agency had identified 6,838 untested kits and decided to test 4,471. Testing is complete on 4,160 kits, with 311 still waiting for testing or in process. Another 311 were awaiting confirmed results.
So far testing on 1,605 kits has yielded foreign DNA. Almost 1,495 kits had enough material to upload to the FBI's national DNA database. DNA from nearly 500 of those kits matched known or unknown profiles already in the database. Drummond said the effort has resulted in charges against eight people so far.