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County revises rape test kit agreement with ASU Police

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The renewal of an agreement between Maricopa County and Arizona State University may allow some catchup on processing a backlog of rape test kits.

By unanimously approving a revised memorandum of understanding at a meeting last month, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors renewed an agreement between the Arizona Board of Regents, on behalf of the Arizona State University Police Department, and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

The Attorney’s Office, among other provisions, agrees to review charges submitted by law enforcement for potential prosecution or other appropriate action.

An amendment to the agreement was approved by the board at an October meeting, with the full agreement approved by the board Nov. 17.  It will be in effect as soon as it’s signed by Board Chair Jack Sellers, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, a member of the Board of Regents and attorneys for the board and for the regents.

The amendment extends the MOU and updates some dates and language.

Testing is funded by a grant from the Office of the District Attorney of New York County in New York state. The original agreement sprang from the Maricopa Attorney’s Office receiving a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, or SAKI, grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

The amended MOU calls for the Maricopa Attorney to submit reports to the DOJ as specified by the SAKI grant agreement.
According to the agreement, ASU has untested kits, defined for purposes of the agreement as kits that has not been analyzed by a forensic lab within 365 days of being booked into law enforcement evidence.

Kits involving cases in which the identity of the offender is not an issue, the statute of limitations has expired, or the offender was convicted without DNA evidence still fall under this definition and are not excluded.

Kits that have been tested, but have not been tested for the presence of DNA evidence, also fall under the definition of “untested kit” and are not excluded.

Untested kits do not include kits in cases where a victim chooses not to report a crime. Such non-reported, unreported, anonymous or “Jane Doe” kits should not be tested, under the terms of the agreement, unless a victim has decided to make a police report at a later time.

And cases in which evidence exists that no crime was committed will also not be tested.

DNA profiles identified by one of the Attorney Office’s contracted labs will be submitted to the State of Arizona Department of Public Safety lab, which creates the potential for submission to the FBI’s combined DNA Index System, called CODIS.

ASU is obligated to cooperate with the county’s Attorney Office in prosecution of the suspect or suspects identified as a result of DNA testing by the lab.

Communication with several agencies this week could not determine an exact count of backlogged rape kits in Maricopa County. In April 2019, Rachel Mitchell, now the Attorney Office’s special assistant to the chief deputy, said a backlog of more than 4,600 kits had been reduced to fewer than 300.

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