Dozens of lawyers volunteer to help prosecute rape kit backlog cases

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office is rolling out a new initiative to prevent another devastating and dangerous backlog in the court system.

“I heard through the grapevine that they didn’t have enough prosecutors to prosecute the 155 rape cases they had developed. That’s a huge amount to dump on an already overloaded DA’s office,” said Randi McGinn, the Senior Partner at McGinn, Montoya, Love and Curry

Two years ago, the shelves at the Albuquerque Police Department’s crime lab were full of 5,000 untested rape kits dating back to the 1980s. Now, there are only 28 kits left to test. “They started getting hits and they got about 155 hits through CODIS which is the criminal database,” said McGinn.

The DA’s office only has four prosecutors set aside to try cases stemming from the testing of the rape kit backlog. McGinn, who began her career prosecuting violent crimes including rape, wanted to help.

“So, I thought about, who are the best trial lawyers I know,” said McGinn. She emailed the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association, asking for volunteers to help prosecute the backlog pro bono.

“We got a huge response. Over 40 trial lawyers said I’d be glad to volunteer and help out,” said McGinn. About 45 civil lawyers spent a Saturday learning how to prosecute difficult criminal cases.

“Huge challenges. Some of the victims are dead, and, how heartbreaking is that? That this woman got raped and nobody was ever brought to justice in her case. I mean that’s horrible. She died without this person ever being prosecuted,” said McGinn.

McGinn’s firm took four cases. In one, McGinn says the rape suspect had been killed by a rival. She says they were both, allegedly, in the human trafficking business. “I guess there’s some poetic justice in that case. So some of the guys are dead, some of the women are dead,” said McGinn.

The DA’s office also expects there will be issues regarding the statute of limitations. First-degree rape doesn’t have a statute of limitations. However, second and third-degree rape cases, which are much more common, do.

While this work won’t be easy, McGinn believes working together to prosecute a growing number of cases is worthwhile work. “We’re serving notice on these predators this is not going to be tolerated in Albuquerque. If you rape somebody, we’re going to find you and put you away,” said McGinn.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez held a press conference Wednesday morning, where more details of this initiative were revealed.

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