Rape kit backlog lawsuit dismissed


A federal judge has dismissed a 2017 lawsuit two rape victims filed against Houston’s current mayor and police chief and five sets of predecessors, among others, for allowing a backlog of rape kits to accumulate over decades without being tested, arguing that failure ensured the plaintiffs’ attackers were on the street when they otherwise could have been behind bars.

Both women were raped by serial offenders whose DNA had long been in police databases, but who went unidentified until Houston paid two private laboratories to erase its backlog of more than 6,000 untested kits in 2013 and 2014.

The plaintiffs sought damages, saying city officials violated their rights to due process and equal protection, and that officials illegally took her property and violated her personal privacy and dignity under the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore dismissed the case, saying the suit had not been filed quickly enough and that the plaintiffs’ claims did not cover rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

See here for the background, and here for the Mayor’s press release. Not clear at this time if the plaintiffs intend to appeal the ruling, but that’s always a possibility. The city is working to eliminate another backlog, and I very much hope that includes a more long-range plan to prevent backlogs from occurring in the future. The city – and the county, and the state, and Congress – should not need to be coerced into doing this properly.

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One Response to Rape kit backlog lawsuit dismissed

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    There ought to be some mechanism for private citizens to pay to have a rape kit, or multiple rape kits, tested. It’s outrageous that we pay to collect evidence that would help to catch very bad people, then don’t bother to follow through. I get money being an issue, so OK, if I’m a rape victim, or the spouse or friend of a rape victim, I should be able to walk into the PD with a check and say, “Here, here’s the money. Test the damn evidence.” I also understand the optics of, “you’re victimizing women twice by asking them to pay for the testing.”

    These women need to be empowered to take control of their own cases. Instead of just being told we don’t have the money to test your evidence, tell the women they can do something about that. If someone I loved was raped, I’d be there with a check the same day. Test it.

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