Capitol Alert

Focus on untested rape kits in California after East Area Rapist suspect arrest

All rape kits in California should be tested now, says gubernatorial candidate John Chiang

Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang says California has the money to pay for all rape kits to be tested.
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Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate John Chiang says California has the money to pay for all rape kits to be tested.

Pressure is building for California lawmakers to end the backlog of untested rape kits, following the arrest this week of the suspected East Area Rapist.

Law enforcement officials said a major break leading to the arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo was made possible, in large part, by DNA evidence tied to old crimes carried out by the suspected rapist and killer.

California has an estimated 13,615 untested rape kits, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, a sexual assault advocacy group that is leading a national campaign called "End the Backlog." The nonprofit tracks local and statewide statistics on untested rape kits and advocates for policies to speed up testing.

"There's never been a statewide inventory in California," said Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy for the foundation.

A pair of bills moving through the Legislature seek to address the state's historic problems with untested rape kits. Assembly Bill 1138 from Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, would require a statewide audit of all untested kits, providing a more accurate count how many there are and how far they date back. Senate Bill 1449 from state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, would require California law enforcement agencies to test rape kits.

At present, testing is voluntary.

The legislation from Leyva would also appropriate $2 million to the state Department of Justice, which would assist local law enforcement agencies with compliance. The bill is holding in the Senate Appropriations Committee, with an estimated cost of $6 million.

Gubernatorial candidate and state Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday said California has enough money now to end the backlog.

"As our state treasurer, I can tell you without hesitation, we have the funds to immediately test these rape kits," Chiang said at a press conference at the Capitol.

Chiang said it would cost $5 million to $13 million to test the rape kits. He said California could pay for it from this year's general fund surplus.

"We refuse to let rape kit backlog grow any larger," he said. He said if elected, he'd immediately fund testing of all rape kits.