“Jane Doe” reported a sexual assault in 2016 and sent her DNA to a rape kit. Five years later, police in San Francisco used her DNA to arrest her for a property cri*me. She has now filed a lawsuit against the city.
“This is government overreach of the highest order, using the most unique and personal thing we have, our genetic code, without our knowledge to try and connect us to a crim*e.” “You’d think this is some sort of sci-fi film.” But this is real life.” The woman’s attorney, Adante Pointer, issued a statement.
In 2021, police used the woman’s DNA to file a felony property cri*me case against her. When the district attorney at the time, Chesa Boudin, found out how the DNA was obtained, she dropped the charges. His words at a news conference in February 2022 were that she and others had been treated “like evidence, not as human beings.”
He told The New York Times, “The deal is that you will use this DNA to punish the person who violated me.” Instead, it was the police who broke the law here.
USA Today says that keeping victims’ DNA in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is against federal law. California and the rest of the US, on the other hand, let police departments store the DNA of victims so that it can be analyzed later.
Dr. Dan Krane is a biology professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He has done research on how DNA can be used in criminal investigations and called local police departments “stamp collectors” when it came to gathering and storing DNA. He told The New York Times, “They are happy the more people they can add to the database.”
However, the fact that Jane Doe’s rape kit DNA was later used to identify her when she was arrested in San Francisco has led to a reckoning. ABC7 reports that after getting the complaint from the district attorney’s office, the police cr*ime lab stopped using the DNA of victims and changed how it worked.
Chief Bill Scott, the police chief, told the police commission in March that 17 cri*me victim profiles, including 11 from rape kits, had been matched with possible suspects. He did say, though, that only Jane Doe’s DNA was used to officially charge her.
The New York Times also says that California lawmakers want to make it illegal for police to use DNA evidence from cr*ime victims to connect them to other cri*mes. They passed a bill to do that in August 2022, and it is now waiting for Governor Gavin Newsom of California to sign it.
But for Pointer, the problem is bigger than just using his clients’ DNA in the wrong way. She also told The New York Times that the fact that her rape kit DNA was used shows that people of color “are frequently targeted by the criminal justice system.” Jane Doe is black.
Pointer told us, “Their civil rights are frequently and continuously violated.” So, another part of this is making sure that we protect the rights of people whose rights are often ignored in this society.
As soon as someone reports a sexual assault, medical professionals use a rape kit, also called a rape test kit, to gather and keep physical evidence. The victim’s information can help with the investigation into the rape case and the prosecution of the suspect.
DNA evidence can be very helpful in investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults because it can be used to find criminals, show that some people commit the same cri*mes over and over again by matching DNA from different cases, and clear people who were wrongly accused.
In the middle of the 1970s, the kit was made in Chicago to make it easier to gather evidence after a sexual assault. Martha “Marty” Goddard, who is a sexual assault survivor and the founder of the Citizens for Victims Assistance organization in Chicago, looked into the idea and gave it to Louis R. Vitullo before he made the first kit.
This type of instrument was called a Vitullo kit for a long time. These days, people call it a rape test kit or rape kit.