Justice should be swifter for all in Michigan

It’s the same old story: The state crime labs are horribly backed up, again.
Jun 26, 2013

They’re so backed up that thousands — yes, thousands — of rape kits have gone unprocessed for years.

Yes, years. They were found in a Detroit Police Department property storage facility in 2009, and the state has only processed about 600 of the 11,300 kits in the past three years.

For years, men who have perpetrated violent and horrific crimes against women in Michigan have been walking the streets while rape kits sat unprocessed. We can only imagine how many crimes have occurred because cases never made it to or through the state lab.

That’s disgusting.

Solving crimes and delivering justice to victims needs to be a top priority in the state. It should be right up there with education on the To-Do-Right list.

This is just one example of many related to the lack of swift delivery of justice in Michigan. The lack of funding and effective management of the state’s labs have led to a serious backlog of current cases — up to 15 months in some cases.

Even locally, the effects have been felt. Stephen Spencer, the man accused of killing Grand Haven Township father John Shumaker in a Father’s Day weekend crash a year ago, never has gone to trial. Part of the trial’s delay can be at least partially attributed to the backlog at the state labs.

Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette seem to finally be recognizing and attempting to address this monstrous problem. They announced a $4 million plan to DNA test thousands of unprocessed rape kits from southeastern Michigan. The idea is to remove rapists and protect the region from serial criminals.

Let’s hope they follow through on their promise and are able to get convictions on crimes that, in some cases, occurred more than 20 years ago. 

Schuette has it right when he said, “The scope of failure by government to meet its responsibility is almost impossible to comprehend — it is outrageous.”

Outrageous indeed.
What would be even more outrageous is if, 20 years from now, we’re still talking about the backlog of justice in the state. Figure out a plan for efficiently and swiftly processing all crime evidence, Schuette and Snyder, so all criminal cases can go forward without delay.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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