WWL>Topics>>7-23 3:10pm Angela: on uninvestigated rape cases

7-23 3:10pm Angela: on uninvestigated rape cases

Jul 23, 2015|

Angela talks with WWL-TV investigative reporter Katie Moore and Tulane law professor Tania Tetlow about the city's backlog of uninvestigated rape cases.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

It is nothing short of a national disgrace. Tens of thousands of rape kits laying dormant in police department too big and small across America. Each one of those rape kits represents. Not only a life changed for ever but a crime. How could this would be. Katie Moore Doug WL TV. Investigative reporter has been looking into what the situation is in the New Orleans area and it is not a pretty picture. Katie Moore joins us with the very latest in her reporting. And also here Tonya Tesla. Tulane University professor of law and director of the domestic violence clinic and they wonderful friend Michelle. I am so appreciative to both of you being here and I mean. The more I've read about this the more appalled him he really is unbelievable Katie had a piece on last night with tremendous base in a continuing look. At what additional become update. Well last and we look at the number of DNA matches that are sitting out there on that haven't been investigated yet. This has been a problem that we started chronicling back in 2009 and we found out then that there was a huge discrepancy in the number of tests that were getting. Requested by the NO PD and the number of rates that were reported. And then eventually we ended up finding out that there was this huge backlog of more than a thousand cases it turned out. That needed to be tested to these for sexual assault kits. That'd been sitting there some of that was because of Hurricane Katrina some of that was because. Just they had men tested over the years dislike all these other areas around the country. USA today is part of the investigation we did last week. And found they found 70000. Rape kits at least around the country. That have been sitting there untested. I thought I read in that that 101000 alone in Detroit yeah. Yes I can think it is there were rumors are there drawing somebody walks by every day. Yes. Yes I mean there's a refrigerator. Ironically because these have to be refrigerated in order to maintain the evidence cell. Well I remember a piece of what you in your has been very comprehensive but the thing that stuck my brain was that so. One of the cases or something on the North Shore was from like 1982. And 1991 act unbelievable. Button and so many victims. Aren't periodically saying to the please you know I did that. Test. What's happened. I think it's a difficult thing for them because you know Wendy did Trie who is the amazing sexual assault survivor that we talk until you leave a ball. She's incredible and you know her case just wrapped up earlier this year she that finally got. You know some justice this year after 23 years. But it's been tremendously difficult for her and Tonya teller can probably talk more about the victim cited as the senate she's talked quite a few. In her work but. He you know it's difficult for them at some point they sort of feel like they need to move on with their lives and that's the only way that they can deal with it and with the fact that they don't know. And it's not their job to keep having to call the police to remind them to do what they need to do that's the department's chopped to prioritize this. To its use the resources necessary it is test kits to keep sending them on a regular basis to the state crime lab. And then most of all to have the resources to act on the results of the code as head acting at backup is the biggest scandal. Is making sure that these departments around the country and in our state. Our. Spending enough resources on investigations such that they respond to the information and they get it. What when this broke when this whole 22 vote to view the Tonya in particular when this broke that these. With the obliging. Yes that finally said that look we have this thousand. On. Thousand. Test that has not been tested. Well it ever get an original backlog that was discovered after Katrina and then federal money used to test that backlog oh IG audit. Was an audit of the detective work on rape kits are one measure of what's going on by. They're just a small part of it because actually most cases the rate it's not going to be. The best evidence because that defense is consent not that somebody else did it but that we did have Sachs and she agreed to it and the rape kit doesn't disprove that. So this audit looked at the quality of detective work. And in some ways it turned out that the information and a PD turned over. Made it look worse than it was because a lot of the cases that detectives were supposed to not have investigated turned out to be actual checks on sex offenders which don't generate reports and we're not. Anything it should have been done differently. But it's still revealed the fact that both of some problems with the individual detectives which are being investigated by PHP about. Most of all that there just aren't the resources there. To handle the caseload that there and so the good news is there's a committee working on the systemic reform. Which I'm chairing a marketing with some amazing people and that and OP's been incredibly responsive to everything we've come up with in the starting made significant changes in his party. Devoted to more detectives today unit and grow. What's it in your report last night that the need is what they had how many and now they need. In a perfect world 24. Yes it's good to add the true but we're not anywhere near where we need to being eight. It where it eights and we're in a department where literally the chief is making decisions about whether to bar detectives from homicide. Or at that time. Districts and so I I don't envy him those choices that we keep pushing him on this and he understands it to be a huge priority so. He has committed to. Growing the units as quickly as possible and every time there's a new police recruit class that frees up manpower from below to devoting more detectives to it in and will keep pushing him on that. And not to divert from what has we're really talking about this this backlog of two tests were talking about the DNA but since you brought it up. What is the latest news in the OIG report it says five members of that unit we're not doing the job and where they. Where they suspended what happened that put him on desk duty. They were transferred out of the unit. They have. Rights within the systematic can't be suspended easily until there has been an investigation of their put and other work and the PIB investigation that I understand it is. Coming close to completion that they've. Finished up they had that it it's pretty backbreaking work as they had to analyze the cases individually to see if the detectives you know were. Just a word in fact during their job or were not doing it and weather's not p.'s answer incompetence or what level of discipline is necessary but they're also looking at the supervisors more importantly to see what we're on merits well. Is there are new supervisor. Yes win so chief Harrison and took. His new position right before the sonic came out and he is seen as he I came out immediately replaced a lot of the relevant chain of command. Right away. So we've had some great people in there that are working hard OK so and I am looking at you because you've been sort of the epicenter and now you're leading this committee but you are encouraged. I am very encouraged. And I don't take that lightly because this is an incredibly important issue and we've cats. Bashing her head against the same mall buy it. This is a huge priority for the department and for the mayor and mayors and evaporate cleared everyone involved and so. When we have asked for things were not waiting till the end to produce some final report Nancy how they respond. Everything we asked for his we've got an immediate response and almost everything that they could do right away they have done already right away which is means it is remarkable experience with in city government attendance hasn't moved back quickly. Well that is good dead so. We like to talk about some good news tonight we're gonna take a break we're gonna continue our conversation with Katie Moore of WW LTV and Tonya Tut look Tulane Law School. About the situation about the rape kits and and learn a lot more beat part of the 2601870. If you have any questions or any comments. I'm Angela under the W. We're back with Tonya tipped local map of course is a professor too willing law school and skating more investigative reporter at WW LTV. Talking about. Really it's a national issue and Katie has done a masterful job of localized in the issue of women who are raped. Who go through the exam which I didn't understand until now I thought it was just like he ran regular pelvic exit. But in fact it's many hours and it's quite a commitment just go to the exam. And then. We have the backlog of all the exams were not tested and the question is why. And Katie has illustrated especially with the marvelous woman whose comport with it was just unbelievable in your interviews. So. Smart and thoughtful and real I mean just. Because certainly relates. He had an act told her she inspires me via because she's been so brave and she has managed to get some healing on offense now nurturing her story. And her thought was well. For 23 years it didn't do me very much good to not talk about it because it's been so Hartford to deal with. And so I think she's got some healing in the fact that she's sharing her story hoping that other people will come forward and will say test my case. Let's talk a lot about why these kits are not tested. It is a problem of priority it's a problem of organizations. So for example that the committee that's working on fixing these issues in the world and has recommended and and a PD is agreed that we're gonna. Create a position where there's a coordinator who works just soundness of taking the frantic evidence keeping track of it we're gonna make sure they have the latest software to do well. To you can't just throw all the evidence that the state crime lab because it will get a huge backlogs you've got to prioritize. Its act cases and rape kits for example against other things. And then you've got to make sure that when the code is hits come back. For those. It's percentage where there are some responses that those get acted upon in a timely manner and right now. Because and a PD has had this problem for so long there is this backlog of cold cases and one thing where recommending and we. I hope the city you know the city will do as quickly as possible is to beat Bob the number detectives in the cold case squad as well to make sure those get acted on in a timely way. We've done shows with cold case gone people and they are fabulous there is devoted his second base and think you grab some of them but they are terrific. You were we were talking. In the commercial that there are women who are raped and go to a hospital. Have the test done but then choose not to call the police. And that is within the law. So state law gives them that right that they can go to the hospital to get treatment not to Steve and the tasked treatment to make sure their paychecks for ST tees. You know. A morning after pill to make sure that don't get pregnant. And in the process of that they will collect forensic evidence had accessed. But the victim has the right to say I don't wanna go to law enforcement now and a lot of women in paktia that. And then NO PD keep sat test there's a national controversy over whether it's fast attack stacked hit anyway or not. Pursuant to the victims desires. And stated wishes by it. NO PD splits the difference they keep those kits indefinitely. In case the victim wants to come back and change her mind and then they can go back contestant some. Jurisdictions that do test them anyway to so that they can have that information and notice it in the primary reason. Women are not wanting to involve law enforcement would be wiped. The variety of things it can be a miserable experience and there are lots of law enforcement officers around the country and here who do not do very well and dealing with victims with compassion and their district attorneys who don't do that very well. And who will. Blame then who last judgmental questions even if they don't attend to blame them make them feel that way. The criminal justice process is pretty brutal for these victims. An addition that a lot of times victims though that they won't be believed that they are dealing with an acquaintance or someone they dated or copper pits seminary married to your had a relationship with. The system the public including juries is not very willing to credits. Their stories and so often they will go through that brutal process and nothing come of it. What have you learned. From the skating. A tremendous amount abouts. How the process works and all the complicated issues involved here I mean just a tiny just mentioned a few of the issues that are involved with. Women who. Go through this just horrific experience. And then have to have the bravery to come forward. And go through that testing for hours and then go through the criminal justice system which she dissent can be extremely difficult. And EE you know my question was the same as yours when I first heard about the fact people could come to the hospital and get the rate kicked on sexual assault can hash at night. And not report it why would want one with somebody wanna do that and go through wall fat and not report it and one of the first answers that I outline as. How law enforcement treats them. You know what we also want victims to know though is that. Research shows that most rapists and the vast majority of rates are committed by serial perpetrators. So the more willing that these victims are to come forward. To go ahead and work with law enforcement and to hope that we've met our commitment to train them well and to make sure their doing a good job and doing it. Kindly. That we are much more likely to catch his serial perpetrators the more victims who come forward. And do that windy too windy jittery the woman who was raped in Lake Charles. In coming forward she managed to put her rapists. In jail for life he was serving time for another rape but he could've gotten out at some point so by coming forward while participating in the criminal justice system. He's not a now. He can make such a difference and listening to Wendy at talk about. I it was just very emotional her her thought process of you know. You know. 23 years of her life but it's his life and what he has done. And the other people he has affected and in rough you know you were talking a Tonya about the sort of mentality about rape it was the Illinois attorney general. Who in the USA report. Testified that often rape kits are on submitted for testing because of not blame the victim mentality. How do we overcome them. It's a problem nationally it's a problem with our culture it's our ideology that we basically think that if women break the rules in some way they Wear the wrong thing update date Iran diet their flirtatious if they're not virginal enough. That then anything that happens to them can be done with impunity because we're gonna be more worried about blaming them for breaking the rules of womanhood. And we are worried about the violence has done to them. And so a lot of the training I do with police is to refocus on the rapists and the perpetrators the bad guy and if you make it that easy to dot his victim's credibility and rapists know how to do that. He buys her drink before hand and suddenly he can Draper and the police don't care. And he's laughing at us because we mated so simple so. It is a huge cultural problem it's about what's on TV and in the movies and how we sexual lies violence and I wish I had the answers on how to change it. What is the response of the police in your training of them. Are they seeing that you know perhaps they were looking at it wrong. I I get some responses that indicate continued judgment but they've really do respond to catching the bad guy and an understanding how to do that and the last time eyes. Tot. Per day in the police academy with the recruits. And this one recruit who has very military and he walked up to me get a break and I wasn't sure what kind of response I get from him. And he told me that. His wife had been raped in the military and that she still wakes up with nightmares every night and he was so grateful that we were pushing hard to train on the. Says she and stay with us everyone we're gonna break go to the newsroom but this is a very important topic and again I hope you'll be part of it whenever you're thinking share with us 260187. Day. We'll be right back I'm Angela under the WL. Again that with Tonya tableau of Tulane Law School in Haiti more super reporter WW LTV. Both very involved in the situation with rape. In our community and really national that this is a huge issue because it is complex that isn't. You know a gunshot. It's gotten much more involved in it and I think probably. Katie as you said you've learned a lot and certainly just reading and listening to you I'm learning a lot. But it is. Maddening I think that's the word to think that women can be violated. And in some cases not all. There are those who just don't look at it as a crime. Right wrong. Rain means that some of that was mentioned in that inspector general's report that one of the detectives may or may not have seen simple rape as a crime. Yeah that's one of the things that. I sin is being investigated by PIP in such. As this whole thing moves forward and as we wait to find out from the task force. What the recommendations are going to be to move forward to improve the situation. And again that will come out sometime later in the summer it's so that is good and that will be a big change for us I mean it will be what is needed. It yet and it's on several different levels so the main thing is we've talked about as the resources because of the detectives have sixty cases each to handle a year they're not going to be able to do each of them while so we've got a handle. That Ansett. And it undermanned department keep making this a priority. We've also. Gore had. Detectives and law enforcement and advocates together write a policy and procedural manual that's about fifty pages long that's based on national best practices in literally gone through line by headline it's been submitted to the justice department for approval under the consent decree that will try to make sure that the work is done in the best way possible. And with a special look at the quality supervision. To make sure that supervisors are doing very hands on qualitative pork is the problem with this is you can't create statistical. Measures for it because if you make it about the arrest rate or the conviction rate or the reporting rate then you end up. In a weird way creating disincentives for the detectives that they're gonna be more likely to brush those cases under the right to disprove them rather than to prove MC you've got to make this about qualitative review of the park which is what we're trying to do. In the USA and in in your piece also. Some of the law enforcement officials. Seemed very adamant in the air. Defense that some kits should not be tested. Out one because it's around a thousand dollars. That was the figure hey it might have a. Really qualified here at least at the steeply scarlet they couldn't give me a specific amounts but they did say that's. Dick it's extremely difficult to test to rate yet her sexual assault kit they can only test two to three day. Total at the state police crime lab the battery which according to the DNA director. The 'cause it's so labor intensive there are lots of different samples that they take in the process of doing a sexual assault exam. All of for the body to take swabs they're looking for DNA they're looking for other kinds of content evidence. And in testing that you're also getting the victim's DNA so apparently to have a separate out the DNA between the victim and the suspect or alleged perpetrators. And so that process is extremely labor intensive so that's one of the factors in how fast that backlog its test. It goes back to and it's not a curiosity it's it's a real bewilderment really of forget Katrina. Nationally all these backlogs it just sent the message. That great. Wasn't important. The crime of rape was not important. Right they would just linger. And again who's making the decision. I'm not to have met when the woman decides not to go and I'm talking about the one who does call law enforcement is at the detective. On right there or is it someone higher up who puts it on a shelf. This past should be. An issue of departmental policy of resources and and facts. There is an issue nationally of communities actually charging women for the Italian news or rape kits we have an issue with hospital bills generally by federal law. Wit to the trouble of banning the practice of charging women for rape kits because it was so prevalent so we we focus on. The kinds of crimes that we care about a we care about property crime and we care about drugs and we care about violent street crime that's in our faces but what we have not tended to care about as a nation. Is violence against women and rape and domestic violence and child abuse and things that happened in the home and things have happened. Particularly to women and. In doing this story. Commander Eckert that the New Orleans Police Department who's the head of criminal investigations for the and a PT. Was saying that they're starting to make some changes already. About the policies and procedures related to when these kits get tested apparently. The detectives were working in a vacuum for a number of years since. They got rid of that whole backlog in 2011 which was more than a thousand great kids they've managed to accumulate another back clock. And that's the latest backlog that were talking about here. And some of the reasons for that you can assume our 'cause. Of the work that the taxes were doing or not doing. And they apparently were deciding on their own in a vacuum whether or not kid needed to be tested and so now that decision is gonna have to go up the chain. Commander Eckert said that I didn't have to get approved by sergeant it's gonna have to get approved by lieutenant and then Eckert said that he's gonna start reading them all himself. In urged her to trying decide whether or not it needs to be tested. Or not tested. And an attitude that that if you delay sending that can't. Op with and I believe it's 72 hours you have to fill out more paperwork to explained to place at a make it harder. To delay entity the wrong thing and acrid has been an extraordinary part of this process used. I think gonna council took over work but he has been so hands on and trying to fix all of these problems and it sometimes is it that. If the victim knows who the person he has. Then is the thought that I don't mean descended up. To be tested because we know and we'll just take it from there and what ever. Other evidence to prosecute right I mean there's some legitimate law enforcement reasons to prioritize some cases over other so if you don't know who the victim is or it's a stranger who's gonna have a hard time arguing that you. You'd of saw him on the street and decided to have sex at and stoked consent won't be a defense and that's a priority but if it's somebody. If your rates by your husband for example or by someone you've been dating. Then the defense is going to be consent and the fact that this DNA matches doesn't really prove anything so bill Cosby's. Victims accusers for example wouldn't have gotten anywhere with DNA evidence unless he were denying that the sex act ever happened. Learning something every day stay with us everyone will be right back. Again back with Tonya tableau of Tulane Law School and Katie Moore Doug W well investigative reporter. Talking about the rape kits. Really is it. We're talking about the backlog of rape kits locally nationally but I think the bigger broader issue of how the crime of rape is handled in our criminal justice system. And very eye opening and hopefully on time and looking utilities saying if this woman has a little hope that we all can handle them. But it is more than just the rape kits being backlog Katie you're right this is the second back line. Is the center padlock so we had the first one okay Katrina will sort of a semi excuse it. But now we've got another back another backlog right that you. To work through and as I mentioned before. The state police crime I can only do two to three kids a day. So if you've got law enforcement agencies all over the states sending an increased number of kits. Which the head of DNA for the crime lab told us they seen a 60% increase in the past year of people sending sexual assault kits to them. The 'cause they're all these questions about the backlog. He now that creates dip. Situation but but the goal would be. But to get them in Cote has been to an issue said Tonya because rarely wouldn't be a single rate rapists who would be a serial. So perhaps she can get them that way. Bright. Identify them if you don't know who they are helped prove the case. And ultimately. Right now dealing with backlogs were gonna need more resources for this problem either more funding for the state crime elaborate the city is writing a federal grant to try to send some of these kits to private labs that can be done quickly. I'm and then once things go on a regular timely basis then you can handle them as they come up which is how it should be but we keep having this. Lurching back and forth so. I I NO PD this problem pulled. I'm hoping we're creating structures wearable. Happen again knock on wood. But this is an issue statewide because of that crime lab resources. Also NO PD just recent. We hired a third. Crime lab DNA analyst that works of batteries. So they're too right now who can actively test cases the third one is still in training is not gonna be evident actively due DNA work for another. Few months from what I understand but. The kind of elephant in the room here is the fact that we still don't have a crime lab. And have a crime lab eight you know but we haven't rebuilt the city's crime lab since Hurricane Katrina ten years ago. So. That's another big question is when a begin that actually see that crime lab back up and running which I think would get them more resources more ability to do DNA quickly. And the fact that you know state police is taking resources or you know taking people skits and from all of the state. Not just a kits but there you know DNA request for murder cases property crimes all those other things that they still have to do in addition to. Doing this DNA work plus the state police is also responsible for getting. All of the DNA from anyone who's arrested at certain felonies or convicted of certain felonies. They get swab and they get put into code is as well so DNA the crime lab rather also has to take that DNA and put that in decode this so. They have a big. Big amount of work to do a lot. Exactly having done many shows on the state budgets and then 1000000006 hole that was then. This isn't there and done a luxury time but one would think. That I mean I don't know what it would cost to say we need five more people right now who are already trained. For will steal him from around the United States what is that gonna cost and it would have to be. Miniscule compared to what does what is 29 billion dollar budget we have in the state. Right. In my whining now I think I am. It's okay ago we can dish real we want him. You know one of the reasons. Was given in that report was it was one they don't it's on the kits because the suspect is known. But then there was the reason which is exact opposite. Is because they were totally unknown. So it's a totally unknown to me that would be the one that you do sent to see if there's a hit right that's the parity. That is the priority that's OK this is weird we have to take another break stay with us will be right back. I wanna think Tonya touch locating more this means a lot this is a very important subject. And one that needs to be talked about have a great day everybody and we'll see you tomorrow.