Only one lab in Ge­or­gia

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Lau­ren Jones Hill­man Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent 2

The DeKalb County, Alabama Sher­iff’s Of­fice an­nounced that they ar­rested a Cedar­town man with drugs, a hand­gun, cash and more af­ter a traf­fic stop by a Na­tional Parks Ser­vice of­fi­cer.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­lease, Deon­qua­vi­ous De’Shawn Wil­liams, 24, of Cedar­town, was charged with Un­law­ful Pos­ses­sion of Con­trolled Sub­stance, Un­law­ful Pos­ses­sion of Mar­i­juana 2nd, and Un­law­ful Pos­ses­sion of Drug Para­pher­na­lia. He re­mained in jail fol­low­ing the June 2 ar­rest.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­lease on the DeKalb County Sher­iff’s Of­fice web­site, Wil­liams was pulled over on Alabama High­way 35 in the area around Lit­tle River Canyon Na­tional Re­serve by the NPS around 6 p.m. Three oth­ers were in­side the ve­hi­cle with Wil­liams when he was stopped.

The re­lease stated that con­sent was given for a search and of­fi­cers found 121 Ec­stacy pills (MDMA,) along with mar­i­juana, a hand­gun, dig­i­tal scales and an undis­closed amount of U.S. cur­rency.

Though with the pic­ture in­cluded in the re­lease, there was at least $2,300 shown re­cov­ered by the DeKalb County Sher­iff’s Of­fice and their Drug Task Force.

DeKalb’s Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­ported in their re­lease that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still on­go­ing and ad­di­tional charges could be pend­ing.

Sher­iff Nick Welden praised the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween his of­fice and the Na­tional Parks Ser­vice for the ar­rest.

“These nar­cotics could have been dis­trib­uted to our young peo­ple in this county. MDMA is a dan­ger­ous drug that is easy to over­dose on,” he said in the re­lease.

How do you pros­e­cute a crim­i­nal?

The an­swer may seem clear at first: col­lect ev­i­dence and wit­nesses to build your case. How- ever, when it comes to crimes of sex­ual as­sault, the crim­i­nal jus­tice process be­comes murky.

The Rape and In­cest Na­tional Net­work re­ports that most rapists will never see the in­side of a jail cell. Out of ev­ery 1,000 re­ported rapes, only five per­pe­tra­tors will re­ceive a felony con­vic­tion — four of whom will be in­car­cer­ated.

There are a lot of rea­sons why sex­ual as­sault cases can be dif­fi­cult to pros­e­cute.

Of­ten there are only two wit­nesses to the crime — the vic­tim and the per­pe­tra­tor — and in some cases vic­tims are shamed into not com­ing for­ward. The Sex­ual As­sault Cen­ter of North­west Ge­or­gia re­cently hosted a walk with the in­tent to re­duce the stigma — in this case vic­tim blam­ing and shame — that comes with sex­ual as­sault.

In ad­di­tion to at­tempt­ing to com­bat the bar­ri­ers to prose­cut­ing sex­ual as­sault, cen­ters like the SAC have sup­port ser­vices such as coun­sel­ing and le­gal ad­vo­cacy, but they also pro­vide ex­ams that col­lect foren­sic ev­i­dence for pros­e­cu­tors. That ev­i­dence makes up a rape kit that is sent to a crime lab for DNA test­ing.

But what hap­pens when there are so many rape kits to test that it causes a back­log? Many states have been deal­ing with this is­sue, and Ge­or­gia is no dif­fer­ent. kits and is­sue the re­sults in a timely man­ner, the GBI hired more sci­en­tists and more staff.

“We have a back­log that we’re still work­ing through,” says Miles. “For us, it’s been two years of heavy em­pha­sis. These kits have been a pri­or­ity for our agency.”

Kim Davis, the SAC’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, notes that some states have a sec­ond crime lab ded­i­cated en­tirely to crimes of sex­ual as­sault or at least a spe­cial vic­tims unit within law en­force­ment agen­cies.

“There’s only one crime lab in the state of Ge­or­gia and it’s not spec­i­fied to just rape or just mur­der,” Davis says. “We’re look­ing at 6 months, some­times a year be­fore rape kit re­sults come back. The ear­li­est I’ve seen one come back was in three months.”

out of ev­ery 1,000 re­ported rapes, only five per­pe­tra­tors will re­ceive a felony con­vic­tion — four of whom will be in­car­cer­ated.

Be­fore 2016, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials de­cided whether a rape kit would be sent to the GBI. So, de­pend­ing on what year the as­sault oc­curred, a vic­tim’s kit could have never made it to the crime lab at all.

But that changed with the pass­ing of SB 304 in 2016. Now law en­force­ment is re­quired to send all kits to the crime lab. From the mo­ment the kit is com­pleted, law en­force­ment has 96 hours to re­trieve it. Then they have 30 days to send it to the GBI.

“They’re not sup­posed to have a choice at this point. I can’t prom­ise you they’re send­ing them to the GBI in ev­ery case, be­cause I have a re­frig­er­a­tor full of ev­i­dence and it’s not just non-re­ports,” says Davis. “I also have a shelv­ing unit that’s full of rape kits ... over a hun­dred vic­tims didn’t just walk in. This ev­i­dence should not be here.”

How­ever, Davis notes that the SAC and the law en­force­ment agen­cies through­out the North­west Ge­or­gia re­gion work well to­gether to help bring vic­tims jus­tice. The SAC also pro­vides train­ing for of­fi­cers so they can learn the best ways to han­dle sex­ual as­sault cases and treat vic­tims of vi­o­lence.

“I feel sup­ported by law en­force­ment,” says Davis.

Part 3 of this se­ries fo­cuses on the dif­fi­cul­ties of prose­cut­ing sex­ual as­sault cases from law en­force­ment’s per­spec­tive. Look for Part 3 in Satur­day’s edi­tion of

the Rome News-Tri­bune.

Po­lice seized MDMA pills, mar­i­juana, scales, cash and a hand­gun dur­ing the ar­rest of Deon­qua­vi­ous De’Shawn Wil­liams on June 2.

Deon­qua­vi­ous De’Shawn Wil­liams

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