CASE EVIDENCE LOST TO DNA MATCHING.Byline: Staff and Wire Services
Biological evidence gathered in as many as 6,000 unsolved rape and murder cases is missing and presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. destroyed, according to a Los Angeles County forensic specialist.
``We should not be destroying evidence in unsolved sexual assaults and homicides,'' said Lisa Kahn, the deputy district attorney in charge of the forensic science section. ``Every one of these cases we can't solve now means a violent perpetrator A term commonly used by law enforcement officers to designate a person who actually commits a crime. remains on the street.''
The missing evidence involves cases investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department "LAPD" and "L.A.P.D." redirect here. For other uses, see LAPD (disambiguation).
This article or section is written like an . and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department This article is about the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Department, not to be confused with the smaller Los Angeles County Police
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) is a local law enforcement agency that serves Los Angeles County, California. . The cases were not under active investigation but fell within the statute Encompassed by, or included under, the provisions and scope of a particular law.
In the U.S. legal system, a person who is charged with violating a statute must have committed actions that are specifically addressed in the law. of limitations for sexual assaults. Homicide cases have no statute of limitations A type of federal or state law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought.
Statutes of limitations, which date back to early Roman Law, are a fundamental part of European and U.S. law. .
Both law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). denied that they had ``lost'' any evidence but acknowledged that evidence in rape cases is discarded after the statute of limitations runs out and prosecution is no longer possible. Under a new state law, that period was extended for three years, so the law may have given new relevance to some discarded evidence.
``We're not losing evidence,'' said Sgt. Ronald Fernstrom of the Sheriff's Department. ``The dispute is, is evidence still retained?''
Even before the new law was passed, the department kept evidence in anticipation of the statute of limitations being extended, Fernstrom said, adding that homicide evidence is kept indefinitely.
The LAPD also defended its record of keeping old evidence.
``The city of Los Angeles
``Has there been any biological evidence that has not had its DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
or deoxyribonucleic acid
One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes. analyzed? Absolutely,'' said Peterson, whose division stores 55,382 frozen biological samples.
Most of the samples are in rape evidence kits and include fingernail scrapings, blood, semen and even saliva, all kept in a network of freezers at Parker Center downtown.
Since courts began allowing DNA as evidence in the mid-1980s, ``the growth in biological evidence collection has been astronomical,'' he said. ``We've been adding freezer space multiple times per year.''
The division now has two living-room sized walk-in freezers and seven freezer trailers and is in the process of buying two more walk-ins, Peterson said.
Using a state grant created with the new evidence law last year, prosecutors had planned to extract DNA from the samples and put that information into a database. When the DNA of a new suspect is tested, it would be compared to the database in hopes of finding a match with an old case.
Kahn believes the missing evidence could have helped catch some rapists and killers. However, she did not speculate on how many.
``But there is a chance we could solve those cases today,'' she said.
The DNA matching is being done under the California Cold Hit grant program.