This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A West Jordan police official argued Thursday that mandating statewide testing of sexual-assault kits would take rape investigations out of law enforcement's hands and cost unnecessary amounts of money, given the volume of allegations that officers know are false.
While many at the Statewide Rape Kit Working Group meeting noted that studies have shown that 3 percent to 5 percent of rape allegations are false, Francine Bardole West Jordan's senior crime scene investigator said the real number is higher, and that police often can tell whether an allegation is true.
Law officers sit "down and make that decision ... on our investigation as to whether this should go forward or not," Bardole said, adding that the cost and burden of mandated testing is "huge."
Similar arguments have surrounded sex crimes for decades and victim advocates say they're damaging myths that chill reporting and demonstrate a lack of understanding of what crime victims endure.
Across the country, 13 out of 1,000 rapes are referred to prosecutors and seven out of 1,000 will lead to a felony conviction, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
"We have to get away from subjective thinking in making decisions on rape cases, instead making it objective," said Julie Valentine, a sexual assault nurse examiner and professor whose research focuses on sexual assault and victim trauma. "Approaching it objectively helps us to establish justice."
Rape cases can be difficult to prosecute, said David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, but it's not impossible.
Rape kits, coupled with gathering crucial evidence such as witness statements, torn clothing, text messages or surveillance tapes, help establish a likelihood of conviction.
That evidence gathering becomes more difficult as time elapses, he said.
Because prosecutors rely on police investigations "if the case goes off in the wrong direction from the very origin, it's very hard for the prosecutor's office to be able to pull back and redirect it," LaBahn said. "It's hard, months later, to come back and say, 'Now let's investigate'."
But in Cache County, in the case of a former Utah State University football player accused by four women of sexual assaults, prosecutors have been doing just that, under a law known as the doctrine of chances.
Under that law, evidence can be admitted to show it's not likely the defendant would innocently, repeatedly be involved in similar situations.
It looks at "what are the chances the same guy would be independently accused of similar conduct by unrelated witnesses?" said Deputy Cache County Attorney Barb Lachmar.
In 2015, four women who did not know each other separately reported to Logan police being sexually assaulted by Torrey Green, then a linebacker for Utah State University.
The investigations stalled, and no charges were filed.
Cache County attorneys now are re-examining the cases as a whole in an attempt to build a case against Green, and additional investigations into the allegations are being conducted.
"There wasn't a reasonable likelihood of conviction when you look at those [two original cases] on their own," Cache County Attorney James Swink said. But "as we have more allegations, that raises our level of concern and we start to see patterns."
Utah does not have a statute of limitations for rape cases.
"We're able to look at prior cases, new allegations, any similarities in facts, and make decisions to see if we can't bolster subsequent cases," Swink said.
Catherine and Mary the first two women to go to Logan police last year reported similar actions by Green, 11 months apart: Green first approached them outside the Taggart Student Center and asked for their numbers. On the nights of the alleged attacks, he took them back to his apartment, where they watched television until he started taking their clothes off. They said no, but he overpowered them.
Catherine and Mary went to police soon after the alleged assaults, in January and November.
The Tribune does not generally name victims of sex crimes. The four women in this story asked to be identified by partial names or pseudonyms.
LaBahn told The Tribune the similarities between Catherine's and Mary's cases could help prosecutors establish a pattern of conduct.
"One time maybe he didn't understand, but being able to have a second victim have a similar incident" could show a pattern, especially because the women reported to police 11 months apart, LaBahn said.
Anna, the third woman to report, said she met Green in June 2015 on the dating app Tinder, and within days he called at 2 a.m. to say he was almost at her apartment. He followed her to her bedroom, she said, and shoved her to the floor and raped her.
She did not report to Logan police until November.
Rapes reported months after the alleged crime occurred can be difficult to prosecute, LaBahn said, because there is no longer an opportunity for a rape kit, and the accused can argue the rape didn't happen at all.
But clothing from the night in question could be relevant if the alleged victim still has it, as could text messages or surveillance video, LaBahn said.
And Anna being one of multiple women to report against Green would likely make her case easier to prosecute, he said.
Days after Anna reported to police, Debbie was at a party at Green's apartment. She had been drinking when Green locked her in his bedroom and raped her, she told police.
Police reports requested in May indicate Green was not interviewed about Anna's or Debbie's allegations.
Cache County Attorney Swink told The Tribune more investigation into the four cases will be done and his office should decide whether to prosecute in a few weeks.
Catherine and Debbie both had sexual assault examinations, but the status of their "rape kits" is unclear.
A recent study from Valentine, a member of the Rape Kit Working Group, showed that Utah police departments forward evidence from rape kits to crime labs at about one-third the rate of other areas across the country.
Representatives of outlying areas such as Logan and St. George often do not attend the group's quarterly meetings.
Jay Henry, director of the Department of Public Safety's crime lab, said Thursday that the group should work to get those individuals involved, especially given the news surrounding Cache County law enforcement.
The group did not decide Thursday whether to recommend the Legislature require mandatory testing across the state.
About 60 percent of the 1,160 swabs and other samples included in Valentine's study all taken from 2010 to 2013 still were waiting in labs as of Dec. 31, 2015, the report found.
"DNA is DNA," Valentine said. "DNA gives us a huge piece of information, and to ignore that and base our decision on subjective findings or a cultural bias really ignores the science."