Nonprofit provides grant to Alameda County to reduce rape kit backlog

Each year, many people are convicted of sex crimes, despite the fact that all of the evidence may not have been taken into account. The rape kit, a crucial piece of evidence that tests for DNA found on victims, can potentially exonerate individuals charged with sex crimes. If rape kits are not properly tested, people could be wrongfully convicted of a sex crime or other criminal offense.

While TV crime dramas make it seem as though all rape kits are processed at top priority, the truth is that it often takes years before experts look at them. A New York-based nonprofit organization, Natasha's Justice Project, seeks to resolve this problem. The group has donated $500,000 to Alameda County, and plans to raise $1 million more to eliminate a backlog of over 2,000 rape kits.

Many individuals accused of rape or other sex crimes often are not familiar with how the prosecution builds their case against the defense. A rape kit is a crucial piece of evidence in any sex crime case. If a rape kit is not properly used or processed, it could create a point of contention in a prosecutor's case. Furthermore, if a rape kit is processed or other DNA evidence comes to light after a conviction, it could reveal exonerating evidence that could demonstrate the verdict was wrong. An Alameda County criminal defense lawyer can help people defend themselves in court and fight for exoneration or a lower sentence.

Alameda County man exonerated after 14 years

For an example of what processing rape kit backlogs could do for those accused of sex crimes, look no further than the case of an Oakland man wrongfully convicted of attempted rape and sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl. The man spent 14 years in prison after being convicted of attempted rape and forcible lewd conduct.

After DNA evidence from the scene of the crime was analyzed recently, it was determined that the man who had been incarcerated could not have been the individual responsible for the crime. He was exonerated and released from prison.

Analyzing DNA evidence in cases that relied heavily on eyewitnesses is particularly crucial. According to the legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project, there have been over 300 exonerations as a result of DNA testing after a conviction. Of those, 75 percent of the original convictions relied on eyewitnesses who misidentified the individual responsible for the crime.

Seeking the counsel of a qualified criminal defense lawyer can help defendants protect their rights and ensure a strong defense is established on their behalf. It is important to discuss the role a rape kit may play in any given case with a lawyer before trial so that he or she can mount a proper defense.