September 22, 2023


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Department of Justice launches statewide sexual assault evidence tracking system | Local Government

The state Justice Department launched a new software program Wednesday that will allow sexual assault survivors to track evidence collected in sexual assault cases.

The system will provide people with updates about the sexual assault kits from medical facilities, law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories, detailing the amount of time spent at each facility, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said at a news conference Wednesday.

“This system will empower survivors to learn about the status of their kit at any time and help prevent a future backlog of untested sexual assault kits,” Kaul said in a statement.

Kaul announced the software would be coming last April. The effort came after the DOJ, under both Kaul and his predecessor, Republican Brad Schimel, worked to eliminate a backlog of nearly 7,000 forensic exams in law enforcement and hospital custody across the state that DOJ discovered in 2014.

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With federal grant funding, Wisconsin began testing those kits in 2016 and finished in late 2019. Kaul announced in November 2019 that the backlog of forensic exams, some of which dated back to the 1980s, had been cleared.

Sexual assault kits can contain evidence that is crucial to finding sexual predators or freeing those wrongly convicted. The thousands of cases remained on hospital and law enforcement shelves in Wisconsin because suspects were already identified and prosecutors thought cases were too weak to continue or victims wouldn’t cooperate.

The program launch comes after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a measure requiring the DOJ to establish the tracking system. The law requires the agency or professional dealing with evidence in a sexual assault case to feed updates into the tracking system, which “is now live ahead of the statutory requirement,” the DOJ statement noted.

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