Weighing Injury, Biological Evidence in Prosecution of Sexual Assault

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice sought to explore the use and impact of injury evidence and biological evidence in prosecuting sexual assault. Specifically, the research questions examined the frequency of injury and biological evidence, its correlation with other forms of evidence, the circumstances that were more likely to yield injury and biological evidence... and how that evidence affected criminal justice outcomes.

From the abstract:

The study analyzed case data for 257 cases of alleged sexual assault that involved adult or adolescent victims (age 12 or older) that the police department referred for prosecution between 2005 and 2011. Most victims received forensic medical examinations following the assault, and the results were included in the evidence kits that were sent to the crime laboratory. Additional data on the alleged assaults were downloaded from a statewide database of reports completed by the medical examiners who conducted the forensic medical examinations.

Analyses were conducted of the relationship of victim-injury evidence and biological evidence to criminal justice outcomes, taking into account other correlates of criminal justice outcomes. Most analyses used the prosecution analysis samples (N=106) in which cases were dropped if the suspect was never identified or the victim was not willing to participate in the prosecution.

The study found that victim-injury-evidence variables and most biological-evidence variables were not statistically related to criminal justice outcomes. The one biological evidence variable that had numerous and robust links with criminal justice outcomes was DNA match to the suspect; and most of the study report focuses on this variable. The discussion addresses the impact of DNA evidence on conviction, the filing of criminal charges, carrying cases forward, guilty pleas, and trials. Implications are drawn for the management of sexual assault cases.

You can download and read the full paper here.

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