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Florida State Agency Calls Out WFTV for ‘Multiple Errors’ in Report

wftv logo_304x200The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has issued a press release detailing what it says are “multiple errors” in a report by Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV.

Mario Boone was the reporter on a story the FDLE called “Rape DNA kit backlogs continue to drown FDLE crime lab.” The story aired on the station’s 6:00 pm. news Wednesday night.

In its statement, the FDLE said WFTV’s report suggests the agency is ill equipped to handle a growing number of rape cases and may cause rape victims to be reluctant to report the crime because they don’t think the agency can process the evidence.

WFTV news director Matt Parcell told TVSpy, “We found one error dealing with the number of sexual assault cases and we’ve fixed that.  We stand by everything else in the story.”

Here’s the FDLE statement:

On March 5, WFTV News Channel 9 aired a story entitled “Rape DNA kit backlogs continue to drown FDLE crime lab.” There were multiple errors in the story which FDLE feels compelled to address.

“WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said, ‘Delays can result in acquittals.’  

“Fact – FDLE is not aware of an instance in which Biology/DNA evidence submitted to the crime laboratory for testing was not analyzed in time for trial and a suspect was acquitted.  FDLE manages casework and actively works with investigating agencies to ensure that evidence is analyzed and processed prior to trial.

“WFTV claims that DNA evidence has been waiting to be tested for more than 111 days and that 368 rape kits have waited that long or longer without being tested.  

“Fact – It is inaccurate to say that 368 rape kits have waited 111 days or longer without being tested.  The 368 Biology cases that have taken longer than 111 days to process represent 3 percent of the more than 11,000 service requests received during this time period.

FDLE begins processing cases well before 111 days, our standard for processing Biology/DNA cases.  During January, Biology analysts completed cases with an average turnaround time of 87 days, a vast improvement over the 127 day average turnaround time in 2008.  Although we strive to complete cases in less than 111 days, some cases simply take longer than 111 days to process.  Some factors that impact processing times include the complexity of the case, the quantity of evidence submitted and lab personnel turnover.

“WFTV claims that in 2008, there were more than 14,000 ‘sexual battery’ cases and that the number of sexual battery cases nearly doubled in 2013.   

“Fact – These numbers reflect the total of all Biology/DNA cases completed during those respective years.  These numbers do not reflect total “sexual battery” cases.  The number of Biology/DNA cases has nearly doubled since 2008.  Despite that, the turnaround time has drastically decreased from 127 days to 87 days.  Eighty-seven days is well below our standard turnaround time of 111 days.

“WFTV states, ‘It certainly doesn’t bolster the victim’s desire to come forward and testify,’ suggesting that victims may be reluctant to report sexual assault allegations because their evidence will not be processed.  

“Fact – Crime victims should know that FDLE crime lab analysts work hard each day to ensure their cases are handled with the utmost professionalism, quality and timeliness.  Each case represents a victim, and seeking justice for victims is a responsibility that FDLE lab analysts take seriously and personally.

“WFTV claims that even though casework has nearly doubled since 2008, FDLE still has about the same number of lab workers testing evidence.

“Fact – FDLE Biology/DNA staffing has increased by 33 percent since 2008 with the addition of 24 crime lab analyst positions, including 12 new crime lab analyst positions requested and received during the 2013 legislative session.  FDLE also uses overtime and outsourcing to help manage workload and ensure that cases are being processed within our standard turnaround time.”

[Orlando Sentinel]

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