Old Rape Kits Finally Got Tested. 64 Attackers Were Convicted.

The detective said a grant from the Manhattan district attorney’s office had helped the Tucson authorities clear a backlog of untested rape kits, which preserve the DNA evidence left by an attacker. After five years, Ms. Sudbeck’s kit had finally been tested, the detective said. 

…The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., committed $38 million in forfeiture money to help other jurisdictions test rape kits. Since the grants began being distributed in 2015, the evidence kits have led to 165 prosecutions in cases that were all but forgotten. So far, 64 of those have resulted in convictions.

…The initiative has paid to get about 55,000 rape kits tested in 32 law enforcement agencies in 20 states, among them the police departments in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami, Memphis, Austin, Tex., and Kansas City, Mo.

…Using money seized from international banks in New York that were accused of violating sanctions, Mr. Vance dedicated $38 million in grants to other law enforcement agencies to clear those backlogs.

…Still, even with such successes, the problem of untested rape kits persists. Advocates for rape victims estimate that about 250,000 kits remain untested across the country.

…Victims whose cases had been solved with the help of grants from the Manhattan district attorney recalled how the local police had dismissed their claims or questioned whether their encounter was consensual.

…“I believe fundamentally there was a gender bias at issue,” Mr. Vance said Tuesday, when asked about the backlog. “A crime mostly involving women was simply not viewed as important to solve.”

Old Rape Kits Finally Got Tested. 64 Attackers Were Convicted. – The New York Times

It’s always a good thing when the American Injustice System actually deals out justice.


Black Lawmakers to Block Legalized Marijuana in N.Y. if Their Communities Don’t Benefit

The lawmakers say that unless people of color are guaranteed a share of the potentially $3 billion industry, there may be no legalization this year. They want to be assured that some of that money will go toward job training programs, and that minority entrepreneurs will receive licenses to cultivate or sell the marijuana.

…They say one misstep, in particular, stands out: None of the 10 states or Washington ensured that minority communities would share in any economic windfall of legalization — missing out on an opportunity to redress years of having a disproportionate number of African-Americans arrested on marijuana charges.

…Critics say marijuana legalization has fostered an inequitable system in which wealthy, white investors often reap the profits of the fledgling industry.

In Colorado, black entrepreneurs said they were banned from winning licenses because of marijuana-related convictions. Black people make up just a handful of the thousands of cultivation or dispensary license holders there, and continue to be arrested on marijuana-related charges at almost three times the rate of white people.

In California, several cities introduced equity programs retroactively. Oakland now requires at least half of licenses to go to people with a cannabis-related conviction and who fell below an income threshold.

…Ms. Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat who represents a district that includes Buffalo. She has introduced her own bill, which directs half of all marijuana revenue to a community fund supporting job training, and prioritizes licenses for people from communities most affected by criminalization.

…That concern has made itself so clear that the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, worried that legislators might seek to shut them out of the new industry, sent a letter to Mr. Cuomo and legislative leaders on Monday promising to set up a $25 million “Cannabis Economic Opportunity Fund” to provide zero-interest loans to companies led by women and people of color.

…The City Council’s Progressive Caucus and the Black Latino and Asian Caucus recently introduced laws and resolutions calling for the city to have local control over home delivery and cultivation of marijuana, potentially allowing smaller businesses to share in the sales.

“Not arresting people is not good enough,” Donovan Richards, a city councilman from Queens, said. “Economic justice must be served.”

Black Lawmakers to Block Legalized Marijuana in N.Y. if Their Communities Don’t Benefit – The New York Times



One Lawyer, 194 Felony Cases, and No Time

…In Colorado, Missouri and Rhode Island, they found that the typical public defender had two to three times the workload they should in order to provide an adequate defense. In Louisiana, defenders have almost five times the workload they should.

…Mr. Talaska would have needed almost 10,000 hours, or five work-years, to handle the 194 active felony cases he had as of that April day, not to mention the dozens more he would be assigned that year. (The analysis did not include one death-penalty case on his roster, the most time-consuming type of case.)

…“Most [public defender] offices don’t have paralegals, law clerks, or full-time investigators.” Lawyers are expected to do it all.

…Handed a thick roster of new defendants just minutes before court started, Mr. Marro, a public defender who recently retired after 33 years, shuffled through stacks of pastel arrest reports, prioritizing cases like a triage doctor.

…Counseling his new clients for the first time as they faced the magistrate or judge, Mr. Marro raised a manila folder for privacy as he whispered into their ear details of what was happening, and what they should say. The lucky ones got five minutes of his time. Others might have gotten a minute.

…Some days the courtroom is so full that defendants overflow into an additional courtroom, where there is no public defender. Those arrestees sometimes agree, without any legal advice, to plea deals that can have a profound impact on their lives.

……The numbers alone might seem to violate the Constitution. Poor defendants in the United States have the right to a competent lawyer, and hundreds of thousands of defendants rest their hopes on someone like Mr. Talaska.

But there has never been any guarantee that those lawyers would have enough time to handle their cases. That’s why the study cited above, which looked at the workloads of public defenders, is significant.

…The time shortage also means that public defenders almost never take a case to a trial. Across the country, 94 percent of convictions in state courts are from plea bargains.

…The reformers say decriminalizing more offenses related to homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness would also free up public defenders to spend more time on serious cases.

One Lawyer, 194 Felony Cases, and No Time – The New York Times