In episode seven of our Research and Considerations for Sexual Assault Cases season, Just Science sat down with Dr. Rachel Lovell and Mary Weston to discuss resolving partially tested sexual assault kits.
Partially tested sexual assault kits create a unique barrier when it comes to the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. However, re-opening these cases and conducting a comprehensive case review can yield positive results, even years later. Mary Weston and Dr. Rachel Lovell led the charge when it came to resolving partially tested kits in Cuyahoga County, resulting in a series of new investigative and prosecutorial leads. Listen along as they discuss the challenges associated with partially tested kits, the importance of a comprehensive case review, and the value of building a good relationship with your forensic laboratory in this episode of Just Science.
This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence [Award 2016-MU-BX-K110].
Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses or may not be appropriate for younger audiences.
Original Release Date: August 27, 2021
Dr. Rachel Lovell is a Research Assistant Professor at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a sociologist and methodologist whose research focuses on gender-based violence and victimization—particularly sexual assault, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence. With funding provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance's National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, Dr. Lovell is currently directing large action research projects on untested sexual assault kits in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Task Force) and Akron, Ohio (in partnership with the Akron Police Department). Dr. Lovell is also the Principal Investigator on a National Institute of Justice grant to employ machine learning technology to analyze the narratives of thousands of sexual assault police reports for "signaling" language regarding victims' credibility.
Mary Weston is the Supervisor of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office’s Cold Case/GOLD Unit. The Cold Case/Gold Unit focuses on (a) reviewing cold case sexual assaults and homicides for new leads, including the applicability of advanced DNA methodologies; and (b) the collection of Lawfully Owed DNA. Mary has been an assistant prosecuting attorney since 2006 and joined the Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Kit Taskforce when it was formed in 2013. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Taskforce, overseeing all aspects of cold case sexual assault and homicide investigations, making charging decisions, presenting cases to the grand jury, and litigating cases in court and on appeal.