Rape DNA kit backlogs continue to drown FDLE crime lab

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

Channel 9 obtained records that show the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab is drowning in a backlog of sexual battery DNA kits that need to be tested for evidence, which could delay justice for rape victims.

Channel 9 first reported in 2008 of the more than 14,000 Biology/DNA cases. Since then, the number of cases has nearly doubled.

Channel 9's Mario Boone took a look at rape cases where DNA evidence has been waiting to be tested for more than 111 days.

Right now, 368 rape kits have waited that long or longer without being tested. In fact, one of those kits is seven months old, Boone learned.

But the problem isn't new. For years, Channel 9 has reported on shortstaffing and backlogged evidence at the crime lab.

"There's an old saying which is, 'Justice delayed is justice denied,'" said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Sheaffer said delays in processing evidence might also cause a victim to have second thoughts about cooperating with police.

"It certainly doesn't bolster the victim's desire to come forward and testify," he said.

But not every case is treated the same.   Investigators had no problems expediting the rape kit involving former Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Donnelly.

Donnelly was charged in January with sexually assaulting a woman he was supposed to be helping.

But when cases don't get that same level of attention, it can derail a prosecution, said Boone.

"Delays can result in acquittals," said Sheaffer.

The legislature approved hiring 12 new crime lab analysts last session. FDLE said it expects its caseload to decrease when the new analysts are fully trained, along with outsourcing evidence for testing at private labs.