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In 2009, prosecutors in Detroit discovered more than 11,000 boxes of potential evidence in rape cases left completely unprocessed. Row upon row of what are called "rape kits" remained untouched on shelves in a police evidence room for years. No DNA evidence was extracted; no DNA evidence was used to catch or prosecute the assailants.
Since then, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy has lead the effort to sort through those 11,000 rape kits and to find the funding to get them processed.
"I don't know if they were just forgotten, I don't know if they were ignored, I don't know if they were deliberately put there," Worthy tells weekends on All Things Considered's Guy Raz, "I don't know any of that. All I know is that they were there and that we had to do something about it."
Worthy arranged for a federal grant of one million dollars, but says that didn't allow her team to do much more than sort the evidence, match them up with police reports, and begin a database. To process all of the kits, Worthy estimates, would cost about $15 million.
"If we had the funding to examine and have all of these rape kits tested, we would do that. But right now ... we have to categorize and prioritize the cases that we are looking at first."
So far, just two of the cases are set for trial.