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MADISON, Wis. - Two Democratic state representatives from Madison have requested an official audit of the backlog of sexual-assault kits awaiting DNA testing in the state Crime Laboratory.
Reps. Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor said the drastic step is necessary because they've formally asked questions of the Department of Justice four times and gotten no response. Sargent said the backlog has reached more than 6,000 rape kits.
"Enough is enough," Sargent said, adding that the people of the state deserve answers. "We as stewards of tax dollars in this House in the state of Wisconsin must insure that we're doing everything that we can in order to answer all the questions that we can for these survivors." Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who heads the state Justice Department and hence the state Crime Laboratory, downplayed the backlog and said he hopes new steps that are being taken at the Crime Lab will minimize the problem.
Sargent and Taylor said they can no longer accept excuses. Sargent said the Legislature already has given a $5 million grant to the Crime Lab to address the sexual-assault kit backlog, which she claimed has not been reduced. She said she wants a full performance and financial audit of the lab, adding that this backlog is a huge burden to the victims of sexual crimes. "And if it's hanging over their heads, it's really hard to wake up and put one foot in front of another, and I know that our sexual-assault survivors in the state of Wisconsin absolutely deserve better," she said. "They deserve justice and they deserve dignity and they deserve respect. I very much am hopeful that we can get past the partisanship on this."
Sargent and Taylor have requested an official response from the Audit Committee by Oct. 13. The ongoing correspondence is online at legis.wisconsin.gov.