[Madison, WI] – In case you missed it, under Attorney General Josh Kaul’s watch, the Wisconsin Department of Justice was slower to process DNA evidence, despite having fewer cases and two additional DNA analyst positions provided in the state budget.
During his campaign for Attorney General, Josh Kaul attacked Brad Schimel for delays in testing sexual assault kits that were scattered across the state and even promised to move DNA tests through the lab more quickly. Attorney General Brad Schimel moved to fix the backlog of sexual assault kits that had been created over the course of a quarter century in less than three years.
“Attorney General Josh Kaul sought to play politics with the backlog of DNA evidence for political gain and it is coming back to bite him,” said Andrew Hitt, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “Despite promises to the contrary, Josh Kaul is proving that this issue was only a priority for him when he could use it for political gain.”
Read the full write up here, or read excerpts below.
Report shows delays in testing at state crime labs
Wisconsin State Journal
May 20, 2020
State Justice Department crime labs were slower to process some types of evidence in 2019, providing a setback for Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who once chided his Republican predecessor for crime lab delays.
A DOJ Division of Forensic Sciences report released Tuesday outlining crime lab performance showed it took longer last year to process evidence related to DNA, major crime scenes, firearms, and forensic video and image analysis, even as the total number of cases submitted to the crime labs decreased.
The Wisconsin state crime laboratories provide forensic science testing for communities around the state. During the 2018 campaign, Kaul slammed former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel for backlogs in testing of sexual assault kits, which can contain DNA evidence that is crucial to finding sexual predators or freeing the wrongly convicted.
The Department of Justice in 2014 first discovered the existence of nearly 7,000 untested sexual assault kits in law enforcement and hospital custody across the state. With federal grant funding, Wisconsin under Schimel began testing those kits in 2016 and finished in late 2019, under Kaul.
Schimel said the chief reasons the kits had gone untested were because law enforcement sometimes didn’t believe the victims, or the crime was solved and the additional evidence wasn’t needed.
Despite having fewer cases to process in 2019 and two additional DNA analyst positions provided in the state budget, the crime labs under Kaul took an average of 17 days longer to process DNA evidence, which includes DNA evidence from sexual assault kits, weapons and homicides. Those wait times mean it could take longer to arrest criminals connected with major crimes.
Turnaround times for DNA increased from 80 days in 2018 to 97 days in 2019. The report notes that numbers of DNA cases were higher under Schimel due to the processing of backlogged sexual assault kits.