Efforts by the state crime lab to trim a backlog of untested sexual assault kits led to delays in testing DNA in nearly 350 active cases, a new Department of Justice report says.
The state began to clear that backlog — which peaked at over 6,800 untested kits, some of which dated back to the 1980s — after the DOJ in 2015 received a $4 million federal grant. While most of the work has been outsourced to private labs, a team made up of more than half of the DNA analysts employed by the state crime lab were assigned to review the results.
According to the latest annual report from the state crime lab, those analysts spent over 4,850 hours assisting with the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative over the course of the project. That amounted to roughly 15 percent of their time between 2016-18, when former AG Brad Schimel headed up the DOJ.
The report indicates it takes an analyst about 14 hours to review each case, diverting time away from other cases which required DNA analysis. All told, the report estimates analysts had to delay review of roughly 350 active cases, which caused the pending caseload to swell to over 1,100.
The report notes that with the completion of WiSAKI, analysts can turn their full attention towards reducing the overall number of active pending cases. The most recent data released by the DOJ indicated that 311 kits were still in the testing process, but a DOJ spokeswoman indicated to WisPolitics.com those kits were not part of the original total and were required to be added on as a condition of receiving the grant funding.
In total 4,471 kits have been designated for testing by the DOJ. Out of that sum, 1,605 kits identified foreign DNA and 496 have produced matches in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System.
DOJ spokewoman Gillian Drummond said those matches have resulted in charges against eight suspects so far.