Introduction by Dr Jenny Farrell of the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society
November 11th, 2018 marked the centenary of the end of the first World War. During that bloody slaughter, the propagandists described it as the “war to end all wars”. One hundred years and as many wars on, leaders of the nations of Europe and the US, many of them the authors and overseers of the present conflicts from Afghanistan to Yemen, met in Paris to promote the so-called “Great War” as something noble.

There is nothing honourable about such carnage. It is therefore appropriate to republish a short story, The Discarded Soldier, by the world-famous novelist and short story writer Liam O’Flaherty (1896-1984), which presents the real and barbaric nature of war.

Liam knew what he was writing about. He not only fought in the trenches of Flanders as a member of the British army’s Irish Guards, but was wounded and shell-shocked in September 1917. His abhorrence of war is expressed poignantly in this text and his avant-garde 1929 novel Return of the Brute.

Liam O’Flaherty, author of The Informer and The Puritan, in New York City. Photograph: Getty Images
Liam O’Flaherty, author of The Informer and The Puritan, in New York City. Photograph: Getty Images
Liam O’Flaherty in 1930. Photograph: Armstrong Roberts /ullstein bild via Getty Images
Liam O’Flaherty in 1930. Photograph: Armstrong Roberts /ullstein bild via Getty Images

What is also interesting about The Discarded Soldier is that it was published for the first – and probably only – time in The Daily Worker, predecessor of People’s World, on June 27th, 1925. A columnist of the paper had requested this internationally renowned Irish author to pen the piece. Liam could hardly refuse, as The Daily Worker’s columnist was none other than his brother, Tom O’Flaherty.

The brothers came from the Irish-speaking Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Both were writers and both were involved in the communist movement. Both were founding members of two separate communist parties: Tom of the Communist Party USA and Liam of the Communist Party in Ireland.

The Discarded Soldier was never collected and is virtually unknown.

In an advertisement in The Daily Worker on June 13th, 1925, Tom describes Liam as “a young proletarian writer who has already won an international reputation thru his books and short stories. (…) One of those short stories, dealing with the civil war in Ireland, in which he fought on the side of the Republicans, is listed in the collection of the best short stories produced in Great Britain during 1923. (…) the now only twenty-six years old … left a little fishing village in the Arran Islands on the west coast of Ireland at an early age for college, where he was trained by the Jesuits for the propaganda mission. He is anything but grateful to his tutors as his writings show.”

We have Seosamh Ó Cuaig to thank for rediscovering this story. He is the chairperson of the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society in Ireland that was founded in 2013. It was while researching Tom O’Flaherty that he came across The Discarded Soldier. Interestingly, Seosamh, like Liam and Tom, is a native Irish speaker and hails from Connemara on the coast of Galway Bay, at the mouth of which lie the Aran Islands, the O’Flahertys’ birthplace.

We share in the great pride and pleasure that People’s World, the successor to The Daily Worker, has republished this story from its early days.

For an evocative reading of the story by Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn, filmed by Eoin McDonnell in an atmospheric Aran setting, at our annual O’Flaherty festival on Inis Mór in 2014, click >”>here.

THE DISCARDED SOLDIER
By Liam O’Flaherty

The Discarded Soldier had crawled to his garret to die. He lay on his ragged bed. He had lit the candle beside him to light him into eternity. His head peering from the bedclothes was a portrait of death. The face was pale and wan and haggard, like the face of a drowning man, sinking into a dark river in the moonlight. The light of his candle was his moon burning fitfully.

The Discarded Soldier hugged himself close trying to find warmth. His lean hands wandered over the clothes, drawing them closer around his body trying to shield himself from the cold draughts. The veins on the hands stood out like blue snakes, crawling outside the flesh. Death was in his eyes. They were pale blue spots, with red facings, stuck in deep hollows. They were half closed with weariness.

The hands dropped wearily on the clothes.

Poor Discarded Soldier. Poor useless cannon fodder. Poor scrapped tool of capitalism. But a few years back, he was a strong youth with bright eyes and smooth sleek body perfect in every limb and then … The recruiting sergeants came and looked at his body and they wanted him to fight the war for capitalism. They brought him from the freedom of his lonely home by the sea. They herded him into a battalion with others. He was sent among the monstrous guns, that spat out death. He was marched through fields sodden with blood to the trenches, where men lay huddled in holes, watching through the night for death.

He was cheered and petted by fair ladies. They called him a hero. They sang to him. They feasted him. Fat men pinned medals on his breast—for valour they said.

Then again he was hurled against unknown enemies, pushed from behind, cursed, urged on, beaten, imprisoned when he complained, sent on again to kill, amid the roar of guns, and the mud of the trenches.

Then at last he was caught by a bursting shell and hurled into the air, amid red-hot bolts of steel and showers of earth and smoke. He was crushed into a jabbering mass of pulped flesh. He was no longer a hero. He was a wreck. Capitalism did not want him. The ladies no longer cheered him. They brought him flowers in the hospital for a few months and then forgot. The ribbons faded on his breast. He was cast into the great city, homeless, unwanted, penniless.

Capitalism no longer needed him. Capitalism forgot him. Capitalism imprisoned him when he demanded food. The servants of capitalism beat him with clubs, when he cried for bread. They called him a Bolshevik, a public menace, a scourge of society. They threatened to throw him into a lunatic asylum.

So he crawled into the garret to die, dreaming of his home by the sea—dreaming of the freedom of his youth and the warm sun.

THere was not even romance in his ghastly death. He was not thinking of romance. He was thinking of his home and the sunlight. The hunger gnawing at his bowels made him weaker. It brought a mist before his eyes and transformed the noises that echoed in his ears. He was carried away from his garret to his home by the sea.

The distant noises of the city traffic seemed to him the noise of the breakers at night rolling toward a rocky shore. The recollection brought a smile to his lips. He became delirious. He could see the dawn breaking now in his home. He could see the waves—gentle now and cheerful—surging calmly over the sandy beaches in an awed whisper.

Then the sun rising in the east, over the hills, glistening on the dew-covered crags. The sun. The beautiful warm sun. The dying man tossed away the clothes. He wanted to bare his bosom to the sun. He stretched out his limbs with a sigh of gratitude. He wanted to bare every muscle to the regenerating warmth.

Then he listened. Ha. There it was. The song of the lark as the bird soared into the fleecy clouds, singing its morning song of joy. He smelled the wild flowers, that grew by the sea. He saw the glistening sea weed on the rocks, bared by the receding tide. He smelled the salt sea breeze that swept over the ocean.

Ha! He would soon get well, since he was back again in his home. He would soon be able to run and jump and shout as of old. No more hunger. No more tramping dirty, ugly streets. No more fetid smells in the slums. No more war, no more roaring guns, no more killing. Joy. To be back again in the sun—the great glorious sun that warmed him.

But, ah! The sun was too warm. The dying man licked his parched lips with his tongue. The drought of death was in his throat. His tongue was thick with it. His veins were on fire now. The fever of death was upon him—eating him and he thought that it was the sun. His brain grew dizzy. Then he smiled again. His head turned sideways on the pillow.

His lips set in a smile.

He saw himself approaching a mountain spring, beneath a towering cliff that sheltered him from the overpowering heat of the sun. He wanted coolness now and water. There it was in front of him—the water rippling out from the base of the cliff, gurgling like wine from a bottle. He knelt on the grassy knoll beside the spring. He stooped until his head was among the water-cress. The stream was at his lips smothering him.

Then as the water lapped his lips, he stretched his limbs taut to enjoy the exquisite draught and … His spirit faded into the eternal night. The Discarded Soldier was dead.
(First published in The Daily Worker, June 27th, 1925)
Reproduced with the kind permission of People’s World

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

All this week, we’ve been looking at the life and legacy of President George Herbert Walker Bush – his legacy both on domestic issues here in the U.S. and how he projected American power abroad.

Today, we zoom in on a very specific moment in his presidency – the first few months of 1991. The U.S. had begun its military offensive to push Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. And on February 15, 1991, Bush gave a speech that would later be broadcast directly to Iraqis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE BUSH: And there’s another way for the bloodshed to stop, and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.

KELLY: A clear call for an uprising against Saddam. And inside Iraq, it was understood that such an uprising would be supported by American military might.

We’re going to unpack what played out in the months that followed with someone who was there, Joost Hiltermann, who now is the Middle East and North Africa director for the International Crisis Group. Joost Hiltermann, welcome.

JOOST HILTERMANN: Thank you very much.

KELLY: So let’s go straight to how Bush’s words were received by Iraqis. What was the reaction to that clear call we just heard? Rise up. You can topple Saddam yourself.

HILTERMANN: Well, people rose up. And the first to rise up were Iraqi soldiers returning from Kuwait who mutinied against Saddam and started an uprising in the largely Shia south. And then Kurds in the north similarly decided that enough was enough, and this was an opportunity because they’d heard President Bush say, or suggest anyway, that they would get American support.

KELLY: How much traction did these rebellions ever get?

HILTERMANN: Well, they were pretty massive. And certainly, among the population, it involved a lot of people and engulfed 14 out of 18 governorates, so it was really extensive. Only Baghdad and the surrounding areas were relatively insulated from this. But even inside Baghdad, there were some attempts at rising up because this was a big Shia slum.

But, of course, once the regime turned its guns on the uprising, there was mass panic because people were not very well armed, and they did not get American support. And so they fled. And many Shia fled into Iran and Saudi Arabia. And many Kurds fled into Iran and into Turkey, if Turkey let them.

KELLY: Now, the U.S. campaign, as you know, ended up ending sooner than many thought it would. The actual ground invasion only lasted about a hundred hours. When did Iraqis realize the U.S. was not coming to the rescue?

HILTERMANN: Well, they realized it when Saddam turned tanks and helicopters on them. The United States and Iraq came to an agreement whereby Iraq was not allowed to fly its aircraft but was allowed to use its helicopters for humanitarian purposes.

But, of course, Iraq then used these helicopters to fight the uprisings in the north and the south and suppress them effectively. And so they said, well, wait a minute. Here we are. We are fighting. We’re doing what George Bush has said we should do, and nobody’s coming to our aid.

KELLY: The U.S. did establish a no-fly zone over the northern part of the country to protect Kurds who were rebelling. How successful was it?

HILTERMANN: Well, it was successful. But keep in mind that this was after the uprising in the north had already been crushed. But it allowed the Kurds to come back. And that was key because in 1991, the Kurds were able to, essentially, establish self-rule in those areas thanks to coalition protection. And that was partly due to the no-fly zone and partly due to the safe area that the coalition set up in the north.

And then Saddam’s troops unilaterally withdrew a few months later, figuring that it wasn’t worth the fight.

KELLY: How did George H.W. Bush defend this, because there was massive criticism at the time in ’91, not just from Iraq, but here in the U.S., of people saying, hey, human rights are a pillar of U.S. foreign policy?

HILTERMANN: Well, he took a strategic point of view, which was, first of all, he had put together a coalition of countries that were fighting this Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait and in Iraq. And he said that if he were to go further and go into Baghdad and remove the regime, he would lose his allies because that’s not what they had agreed to.

KELLY: He was making a tactical calculation. But how did he defend the morality of this decision?

HILTERMANN: Well, he claimed that he had never actually said that he would support any popular uprising. He may have admitted that he called on people to throw off the yoke of Saddam Hussein but not that he would send American troops to protect them.

KELLY: Joost Hiltermann – he is Middle East and North Africa director for the International Crisis Group. Mr. Hiltermann, thank you.

HILTERMANN: My pleasure. Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


John Ryan scoring a try last season against Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile
John Ryan scoring a try last season against Cardiff Blues. Photo: Sportsfile

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Munster have revealed that 12 players have signed contract extensions with the province.

The news will be a big boost to the squad ahead of this weekend’s crucial Champions Cup clash with Castres at Thomond Park.

John Ryan, Niall Scannell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam, Jack O’Donoghue, JJ Hanrahan, Alex Wootton, Rhys Marshall, Fineen Wycherley, Calvin Nash, Arno Botha and Jeremy Loughman have all signed contract extensions.

John Ryan has signed a three-year deal that will see him remain with Munster Rugby until at least June 2022.

Tighthead prop Ryan has made 130 appearances in red since his debut in 2011 and has 16 Ireland caps. The 30-year-old most recently scored his first international try in Ireland’s win against the USA in November.

Brothers Niall and Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam, Jack O’Donoghue, JJ Hanrahan, Alex Wootton, Rhys Marshall and young guns Fineen Wycherley and Calvin Nash have all signed on for a further two years, committing to the province until at least June 2021.

Hooker Niall Scannell made his Munster debut in December 2013 and has made 79 appearances to date. On the international front the 26-year-old has earned 11 Ireland caps and like Ryan recently featured in the November Guinness Series.

Centre Rory Scannell has played for Munster on 92 occasions and has three Ireland caps. The 24-year-old became the first player to win both Munster Academy and Young Player of the Year in the 2015/16 season.

Sweetnam has represented the province on 66 occasions and was named Young Player of the Year at the 2016/17 Munster Rugby Awards. The 25-year-old winger made his third appearance for Ireland when starting against the USA in November.

Back-row forward O’Donoghue has made 93 appearances in red and won the Academy Player of the Year in 2015. The 24-year-old became the first Waterford player to captain Munster in the professional era in February 2018. He has represented Ireland on two occasions.

26-year-old Hanrahan, who returned to the province in 2017, made his Munster debut in September 2012 and has 92 Munster caps. Featuring across the backline, the 26-year-old won the province’s Young Player of the Year and the League’s Golden Boot Award in 2014.

Taking the exiles route, 24-year-old Wootton joined the Munster Academy in 2013 making the step up to the senior ranks in 2016. The winger has scored 13 tries in 34 appearances and was the province’s top try-scorer last season.

Kiwi hooker Marshall joined the province on a three-year contract in 2016, making his Munster debut that November. The 26-year-old has featured for the province on 55 occasions, scoring ten tries.

Promoted to the senior ranks on a development contract at the start of this season, 20-year-old lock/back-row forward Wycherley was awarded Academy Player of the Year in 2018 and has scored one try in 11 games for Munster.

Fellow development player Nash also made the step up from the Academy at the beginning of the season with the 21-year-old winger scoring two tries in eight Munster appearances.

Arno Botha and Jeremy Loughman have signed one-year extensions and will remain with the province until June 2020.

Back-row forward Botha joined Munster in the summer and has made an immediate impact with two tries in nine appearances.

Prop Loughman joined the province midway through last season and has made five PRO14 appearances to date including his first start against Zebre last month.

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geoff-and-bruno
Geoff Murphy with Bruno Lawrence, who was the lead in The Quiet Earth.

Wellington.Scoop
New Zealand film director Geoff Murphy has died in Wellington at the age of 80. He is best known for his 1980s features Goodbye Pork Pie, The Quiet Earth and Utu – which set box office records at home and were among the first New Zealand movies to be screened, and praised, around the world.

He began his working life as a school teacher, and then joined the travelling multi-media group Blerta, making silent movies that were projected behind their onstage performances.

In 1980 he completed Goodbye Pork Pie, which was the first New Zealand feature film to screen in the market at the Cannes Film Festival. He didn’t go to Cannes with his film – he’d made Pork Pie on such a small budget that, instead, he chose to go to Australia “for a job I would get paid for,” making special effects for a TV mini-series about Ned Kelly. Pork Pie sold to 20 countries at Cannes. In its New Zealand release the following year, it was seen by more than 600,000 people. There’d never been anything like it.

In 1983 Geoff’s second feature Utu was the first New Zealand feature officially selected for the main programme at Cannes, though it was in the “out of competition” category. A French critic commented: “Murphy keeps an ironic distance from the narrative conventions and moral cliches which the Australians do not achieve.” Its theatrical release in the USA began in the same year that Te Maori exhibition had been on show at the Metropolitan Museum. The New Yorker critic said Murphy had “an instinct for popular entertainment and a deracinated kind of hip lyricism” Its New Zealand release was seen by 250,000 people and the Sunday Times proclaimed it a “cultural benchmark.”

Geoff’s extraordinary science fiction epic The Quiet Earth, completed in 1985, starred Bruno Lawrence as the only man left alive in the world. It sold for release all over the world and the Los Angeles Times acclaimed it as best science fiction film of the 80s.

Never Say Die, his fourth New Zealand feature, was completed at the end of 1988, with a budget ten times as large as Pork Pie. An American company pre-sold it all over the world, but it didn’t get an American release, unlike the previous three movies. Its New Zealand results disappointed the filmmakers – it was seen by less than 80,000 people.

He then lived out of New Zealand for almost a decade, making films in North America. The most notable were Young Guns 2 with Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Christian Slater, and Under Siege 2 with Steven Seagal. He returned home early in the new century, and made a significant contribution as second unit director on Lord of the Rings.

In 2013 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the NZ Film awards, and he was made an NZOM in the 2014 New Year Honours. Earlier he had been honoured as one of New Zealand’s 20 greatest living artists when he was named an Arts Icon by the Arts Foundation, in the same month that a restored, shortened version of Utu was released. His autobiography, A Life On Film, was published by Harper Collins in 2015.

(CNN) – Hours after you are raped, you sit in a hospital room, under fluorescent lights, and consent to a forensic exam.

Your body is the crime scene.

When did it happen, a nurse asks. Where did it happen? Can you tell me who did this to you?

The nurse is trained to interview you and search your body for evidence left behind by your attacker. Knowing the details of your assault guides the examination.

Did he ejaculate inside of you, on you? Where did he touch you? Did he use any objects? Did he kiss you, lick you? Have you had anything to drink? Did you shower?

You’re asked to undress slowly while you stand on a special sheet meant to collect any trace evidence that shakes loose.

For three to five hours, the nurse swabs your mouth, your breasts, a bite mark on your neck. She scrapes under your fingernails, combs your pubic hair. She inserts a speculum inside you and drops blue dye on the tissue there to illuminate any places that are torn.

The nurse cuts a hair from your head. She takes photographs of your face and shoulders to pair with your chart, of you in the clothes you wore when you were attacked. Every injury is photographed, too — far away, close-up, with a ruler to show size.

When the exam is over, the nurse puts hair, fibers, swabs, vials of blood and urine in a container smaller than a shoebox. She seals it — your rape kit — and entrusts it to a police officer.

This is the way DNA evidence is collected. This is what you endure so police can identify your assailant, make him pay for what he did.

No one tells you that the exam may be pointless — that police might treat your kit like trash.

A CNN investigation into the destruction of rape kits in dozens of agencies across the country found that police trashed evidence in 400 cases before the statutes of limitations expired or when there was no time limit to prosecute.

The number is likely higher and was arrived at through an analysis of the departments’ own records.

The destruction occurred since 2010 and followed flawed and incomplete investigations that relegated rape kits to shelves in police evidence rooms until they were destroyed. Dozens were trashed mere weeks or months after police took custody of the evidence, records showed.

Almost 80% were never tested for DNA evidence, a process that can identify a suspect or link that person to other crimes.

For the past several years, public attention has focused on the hundreds of thousands of kits that have languished untested. The Justice Department has awarded more than $150 million to test that backlog.

But destruction of rape kits is a lesser-known and more fundamental problem: The evidence is gone. It can never be used to lock up a rapist or set free the wrongfully convicted.

“All the attention toward untested kits isn’t enough if we have agencies destroying kits,” said Wayne County, Michigan, Prosecutor Kym Worthy, whose testing of some 10,000 backlogged rape kits has identified at least 833 suspects linked to more than one sex crime.

“Each one of these kits represents a victim,” said the Detroit-based prosecutor. “What you are doing when you destroy a rape kit is destroying the chance that they are ever going to see justice.”

A woman who reported being gang-raped in 2007 said it was “absolutely devastating” to recently learn that police destroyed her untested kit.

She remembered the nurse at a hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina, asking her to describe what the four men did so that her body could be positioned in a way that allowed for more precise examination.

“It was very invasive,” she recalled. “It was very degrading. The level of exposure … was a second violation.”

But she steeled herself because the nurse was collecting evidence, and she believed police would test it and use it in their investigation.

Instead, CNN found, the detective assigned to her case did nothing more than interview her. The officer never tried to talk to the men she named as her attackers, misinterpreted the law and concluded that no rape occurred. About a month after speaking with the woman, the detective authorized destruction of the untested rape kit — in a state where there was no time limit to prosecute rape.

“I counted on the police to do what they were supposed to do — to investigate what happened to me and to test that evidence,” she said. “Instead, they treated it like trash. They treated me like trash.”

Veteran sex crimes investigators, along with experts in the law, trauma and forensic science, reviewed case files for CNN. They said investigations indicated that police lacked training in how to interact with victims of sexual violence; in the importance of testing kits, not only to solve the reported assaults but potentially other crimes; and in the need to preserve kits for the length of time the law allows for a prosecution.

“What CNN discovered is a systemic problem,” said Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant who ran the San Diego Police sex crimes unit for a decade. She examined 56 case files from more than a dozen departments.

“It’s simple — but it’s not the norm — that law enforcement should keep evidence at least for the statute of limitations,” she said. “There are mistakes in these cases, but the worst mistake in each is the destruction of evidence.”

Twenty-five agencies in 14 states destroyed kits tied to cases while they could still be prosecuted.

Department leaders at some agencies defended the destruction by saying officers approved disposal of kits in closed cases they believed had no chance of moving forward. This was a routine process, they said, done to make space in evidence rooms.

At least five departments acknowledged that the decision to destroy kits was made without considering the statutes of limitations. Three stopped trashing kits because of CNN’s inquiries.

Experts said the destruction shows that rape is treated differently than other violent crimes.

“Would we test all the evidence” in a murder? “You bet,” said police trainer Tom Tremblay.

The former Vermont police chief, who has reviewed rape investigations for the US Department of Justice, examined cases from nine agencies.

The language police sometimes used, he and other experts said, suggested bias — describing victims’ accounts of their rapes as “having sex,” asking whether victims experienced orgasms and focusing on a victim’s behavior rather than the suspect’s.

All of it, Tremblay said, communicates one thing to a victim: You are not believed.

Worthy understands personally what’s at stake. She isn’t just a prosecutor; she’s a survivor. She was raped in law school, she said, and — like an estimated 68% of rape and sexual assault victims nationally — chose not to report her attack.

It is a triumph, Worthy said, when a victim musters the courage to go to police and consent to a rape exam. And destroying a rape kit is a betrayal.

One department’s revelations prompt CNN’s nationwide probe

Police Chief Harold Medlock was nervous. City attorneys had urged him to keep quiet, he said. But the Fayetteville, North Carolina, chief resisted. He was going public.

It was September 21, 2015, and Medlock was moments away from revealing that his department had destroyed 333 rape kits.

The evidence wasn’t trashed in some unfortunate mishap. For more than a decade, detectives had the sole power to greenlight destruction of rape kits in their cases, and they did so sometimes just months after victims reported their assaults. The objective was, in part, to make space in the evidence room. Most of the destroyed kits had never been tested.

In a recent interview, Medlock reflected on his decision to hold a news conference announcing the department’s failure to preserve kits. He said he had been warned that revealing the destruction could trigger lawsuits. But as he stepped to the podium, his mind was heavy with other fears.

Would the community ever trust the police again? Did the destruction of even one kit mean a rapist got away and went on to attack another victim?

As cameras snapped and reporters shouted questions, the chief owned up to the mistakes. He also asked his detectives to notify all of the victims about what had happened and, if possible, reinvestigate their assaults.

Fayetteville police said they stopped destroying kits in the fall of 2009, before North Carolina enacted a law prohibiting the disposal of biological evidence in unsolved rape and homicide cases. The chief’s revelation prompted CNN to examine whether the practice was widespread and ongoing.

Comparing the work of police agencies proved difficult because of incomplete information and a lack of uniformity in how police classify cases. Departments said many kits were destroyed after the statutes of limitations expired, after cases reached resolutions in court or when an investigation demonstrated that a crime had not occurred. Those are circumstances in which it could be permissible to dispose of the evidence, some experts said. CNN excluded kits destroyed in those scenarios from its analysis.

Reporters also excluded tested rape kits destroyed by agencies that kept items from those kits (or whose crime labs did) because that evidence could help prosecutors bring charges. Forensics experts and defense attorneys, however, said the entire kit needs to be maintained to preserve a defendant’s right to re-test the evidence and challenge the original analysis.

CNN identified agencies that reported destroying kits in less than two years. Requests for case files yielded more than 1,400 investigations from mostly small and medium-sized cities.

To determine whether kits were destroyed while there was still time to prosecute, reporters applied the shortest possible statutes of limitations for the sex crimes listed in case files. CNN’s tally is likely an undercount; some cases could have carried longer statutes of limitations than reporters could determine or no statutes of limitations at all.

Reporters focused on cases in which rape kits were destroyed after investigators were unable to identify or apprehend a suspect, prosecutors declined to file a charge or an investigation stopped because leads ran dry or a victim showed a reluctance to continue.

Destroying kits in those circumstances is misguided, experts said; police are failing to recognize that the passage of time can work on behalf of an investigation. A victim can decide to engage with police after a few years, and new evidence can emerge, making a prosecution possible.

“Even if a victim doesn’t want to be involved now doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind,” said David LaBahn, president of the national Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and a career California prosecutor. “If you have a statute of limitations that is still open, and a victim does change their mind but you’ve destroyed the kit — that’s a problem.”

Destruction puts victims and the wrongfully convicted at risk

Some experts said police should test and keep kits beyond the statutes of limitations because they have the potential to help solve other cases.

DNA recovered from a rape kit can be compared to the more than 17 million profiles taken from crime scenes, convicted offenders, detainees and arrestees contained in the national law enforcement database system known as CODIS. That process can not only identify assailants but link them to other crimes.

In California, police used decades-old kits — kept well beyond the statute of limitations for rape at the time — to help solve a serial killer cold case. Improved technology allowed police to match DNA in those kits to murders committed by the notorious Golden State Killer in the 1970s and 1980s. That profile, in turn, matched Joseph James DeAngelo, authorities said. He was arrested in April and has so far been charged with 13 counts of murder, some involving other offenses related to rape, robbery and burglary

In addition to cold cases, preserving and testing rape kits has the potential to help solve future crimes. Detectives investigating a rape, for example, may be able to link a suspect’s DNA to an earlier sexual assault in which DNA was uploaded to CODIS and establish a pattern of criminal behavior — something not uncommon among rapists and child molesters.

Last year, the federal government released guidelines on preserving kits. The National Institute of Justice recommends maintaining rape kits in “uncharged or unsolved reported cases” for at least 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations. But police are only obligated to follow their states’ evidence retention laws, which vary widely. Some require evidence be kept only after an arrest or conviction, and even those differ in whether that happens automatically or only after a convict files a petition. Others mandate retention when a case is still being investigated. Local jurisdictions can also enact their own rules governing when evidence must be kept.

The accused may have just as much at stake in the preservation of evidence as victims.

“[A defendant] has a right to have his own experts review that material,” said New Hampshire defense attorney Michael Iacopino, who has served on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “The analysis that was done…was [it] done correctly? Was it potentially contaminated?”

The ability to test or re-test the items in a rape kit played a role in overturning at least 195 convictions for rape, murder and other crimes since 1992, according to CNN’s analysis of data supplied by The National Registry of Exonerations.

Keith Harward spent 33 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. He walked out of a Virginia prison in 2016 because a rape kit and other evidence was maintained and could be tested. That analysis not only showed he was innocent but also identified the man who committed the crime.

“If it hadn’t been for the rape kit, I’d probably still be in prison,” said Harward, who was serving a life sentence. “So I say [to police], ‘What are you afraid of… by holding all the rape kits?’… Would you rather somebody [who’s innocent] get executed?”

Pressuring victims, misunderstanding trauma

During a life-threatening trauma like rape, the defense circuitry of the brain drives the victim’s sole objective: to survive.

Reflexes govern reaction — running away, punching the attacker, lying there paralyzed. Stress hormones can impair a victim’s memory and the ability to make complex, rational decisions.

Investigators trained in the effects of trauma know that a victim’s first account of an assault may not be complete, experts said, and it may not be the best time to ask some questions.

Yet documents CNN examined showed officers sometimes asked questions that threatened to overwhelm victims or put them on the defensive.

“Did you say no? Did you fight back? Why didn’t you call police right away?”

A traumatized person’s instinct is often to avoid the pain that can come from retelling or reliving the experience. Avoidance and withdrawal are common symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. But when victims pulled away from investigations soon after they reported being assaulted, when the trauma was fresh, some police officers were quick to label them uncooperative and close their cases.

“We’re trained to sniff out the liar,” said Justin Boardman, a former Utah police detective who teaches cops how to understand trauma. “So when you don’t give us this training that says — ‘Oh, she’s pulling away because she’s traumatized, or she can’t tell me this detail because she legit can’t remember’ — we think she’s lying or she’s hiding something.”

Experts who reviewed cases said detectives appeared to rush victims into making consequential decisions, effectively ending some cases. They noted that investigators violated longstanding best practices by asking victims if they wanted to prosecute their attackers soon after reporting the assaults to police — sometimes the same day. That question, they said, can intimidate victims and cause them to withdraw.

Prosecution should be discussed only after a thorough investigation is complete, experts said, when a prosecutor — not a victim — has determined that charges can be filed.

Some victims who expressed reluctance to proceed with a prosecution were asked to sign forms attesting to that. But victims should not be given waivers declining prosecution, according to guidelines by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as far back as 2005. Only the statute of limitations should constrain a victim’s right to change her or his mind about moving forward with a prosecution, the association says.

The group’s guidelines also stress that an investigator should try to spend time building rapport with a victim. Unless the public is in imminent danger, law enforcement should work at a pace comfortable for the victim.

Some case files showed detectives closed cases and called victims uncooperative if they didn’t meet arbitrary deadlines.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, a woman reported being raped at knifepoint by a man who had once been a sexual partner. Police noted she’d been arrested for prostitution two years earlier and quizzed her about whether he was a client. She told them no. Though she did not know her assailant’s name, she called police twice after her initial interview with information she thought might help identify him, according to the case file.

But when she failed to return a detective’s call in a week’s time, he wrote that she was uncooperative and ended the investigation 17 days after she reported being raped. Her kit — never tested — was destroyed less than a year later, even though testing might have identified the man. There was no statute of limitations on the crime, meaning the woman should have had as much time as she needed to help police pursue her assailant.

North Charleston’s detective bureau commander, Major Scott Perry, declined to specify why the kit was destroyed. “Each case is evaluated on its own facts,” he said, adding that the investigation could be reopened at any time if the victim re-approached police. He conceded, however, that not having the rape kit would make the case “more difficult to prosecute.”

In Springfield, Missouri, police labeled victims uncooperative when they didn’t respond to letters mailed to their homes warning that they had 10 business days to contact a detective or their assaults would not be further investigated. In at least six cases, records show, a detective sent the letter the day the officer was assigned to investigate.

The victims had undergone rape exams and given initial accounts to patrol officers, actions that demonstrated a desire for the crimes to be investigated. But when victims didn’t meet that 10-day deadline, Springfield police sometimes sent another letter, telling victims their “failure” to respond led to the closing of their cases. The kits were later destroyed, even though the crimes remained within the statutes of limitations.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said the 10-day letter is a tool used in all kinds of cases to spur a victim to work with police. He said investigators should use it only as a last resort — after a detective has exhausted every other means to reach a victim. He did not explain why some letters were sent immediately after victims reported being raped.

The letter is “a way to justify not doing your job,” said Archambault, the retired San Diego sex crimes investigator who reviewed cases. It should never be sent to rape victims, she said.

“It’s horrendous. This type of response will guarantee that the majority of victims will not participate in the investigation.”

Victims sometimes leave their homes because they are afraid an attacker will find them again. It’s “absurd,” she said, to expect victims to check the mail and respond to a demand.

“It isn’t that [victims] are being uncooperative. They’re just dealing with survival. They’re trying to get out of bed, get their clothes on, get to work, get the kids to school,” Archambault said.

Police should instead give victims time — and access to counseling and services that help them feel safe, experts said. After that, they are far more likely to work with law enforcement.

A woman in West Valley, Utah, said she told police she was terrified that her rapist would hunt her down again, but she received neither time nor support.

According to her case file, the woman told a patrol officer that a man she’d broken up with came to her home and raped her. He ordered her to “shut her mouth,” or he would “hurt her,” she told the officer. He forced her into his car. She said she eventually managed to jump out and run into a Kmart, where someone called 911.

The woman gave police an initial statement about the assault and underwent a rape exam. Ten days later, on January 27, 2009, Detective Ryan Humphrey noted that she called him. She said she was “scared to pursue charges,” he wrote in the case file.

He shut down the investigation.

CNN reached the woman, who was upset to learn that her rape kit was destroyed and never tested. She called the failure to analyze it “pathetic.”

Police did not offer to take steps to protect her, she said. If they had, she might have gained confidence and worked with police. She said she wishes they’d told her, “‘Well, we can still help you through this.'” (She asked that her name be withheld, and CNN does not typically identify sexual assault victims.)

Humphrey, who no longer works for the department, said that in the 10 days between the woman’s report and her phone call, he did not try to locate and interview the suspect or do any other work on the case.

Like investigators at other agencies, Humphrey said resources were tight, and he struggled under the weight of a heavy caseload.

He closed the investigation, he said, because he assumed that the district attorney wouldn’t file charges in a case without a victim’s cooperation.

As he reflected on the case, he acknowledged he could have given the woman more time by leaving the case open and trying to build trust and rapport with her. He could have done what experts said is protocol: offer her a safety plan to allay her fears, such as patrolling near her home or helping her file a restraining order.

He agreed that the woman could have changed her mind and re-engaged when she was ready — her right in a state that had no statute of limitations to prosecute rape at the time she reported the crime.

“Obviously, she wanted to pursue it,” he said, “because she went to the hospital and had a rape exam done.”

Humphrey said he did not authorize destruction of the woman’s rape kit but understood that once he closed a case, the evidence would be disposed.

Her kit should have been preserved, he said. Not keeping the investigation open was “a mistake. I look back at this case and can see that….”

Destroying rape kits in open investigations

There are many obstacles to a successful rape investigation. A victim is too scared to continue working with police. A suspect claims sex was consensual. Testing a kit doesn’t crack a case.

But those circumstances shouldn’t necessarily end an investigation. Officers can press pause and set cases aside, then reopen them if there’s a break — a victim changes his or her mind, new leads emerge, technology improves and evidence can be retested.

Yet CNN identified 17 departments that destroyed a combined 92 kits in sex crimes investigations that police described as open or in other terms that mean the same thing, such as inactive or suspended.

In Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White acknowledged that his department discarded rape kits in cases marked inactive.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it appears we were too quick at the trigger to dispose.”

In Farmington, New Mexico, police reported destroying kits in at least eight cases labeled inactive. Chief Steve Hebbe reviewed those cases and said the kits should not have been trashed. He then ordered a major change.

“We will not destroy sexual assault kits,” he said. “We’re not going to destroy them until after the statute of limitations is out.” The chief also said he made sure his officers received fresh training in sex crimes investigations.

Proper training includes an understanding of what DNA testing can do — even when suspects claim sex was consensual. In several departments, CNN found officers failed to test kits in so-called consent cases because they believed testing would only demonstrate that sex occurred, not whether a crime occurred.

That’s short-sighted, experts said. A DNA profile of the suspect in a consent case could match a DNA profile of an unidentified attacker in another rape, connecting those crimes and helping to solve them both. The testing of the backlog in Wayne County, Michigan, has linked kits in “consent” cases to suspects in other sexual assaults, said prosecutor Worthy.

CNN also discovered cases in which police listed “insufficient evidence” as a reason to destroy kits that were never analyzed. Testing might have produced evidence, advancing investigations while there was still time to prosecute.

Even a tested kit that fails to yield DNA evidence during an initial analysis should be preserved, forensic experts said, because testing technology is constantly improving. DNA that couldn’t be detected just a few years ago can sometimes be recovered today.

Blake Nakamura, the chief deputy prosecutor in Utah’s Salt Lake County, said he came to understand the importance of preserving evidence in sex crimes cases years ago.

Nakamura has been on both sides in the courtroom. As a private defense attorney, he successfully defended a man accused of sexually abusing a child by blocking the admission of evidence. When he became a prosecutor, he wanted to be able to admit all evidence and knew he had to protect rape kits from destruction.

So in 2011, he sent a memo to police departments in his county, notifying them to keep all evidence in sex offense cases. At least two failed to follow his directive: Salt Lake City and West Valley. They provided records to CNN showing they continued to destroy kits for at least a couple more years.

They also provided documentation showing why: Prosecutors in Nakamura’s office approved the destruction.

When CNN showed those records to Nakamura, he was irate. He later spoke with his staff in colorful language he said he couldn’t share. But the prosecutor feels certain they got his message.

Rape kits from children, teens destroyed

It is particularly egregious, experts said, to destroy rape kits belonging to children, the most vulnerable victims.

Young victims often can’t express what happened to them, so their rape kits can speak for them. The evidence can prove abuse because suspects, unlike in adult cases, can’t argue that sexual contact was consensual.

Statutes of limitations for teenagers and children typically do not start until victims reach adulthood.

“It takes years to comprehend the trauma of child sex abuse, well into adulthood, to decide whether to move forward,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor and attorney who analyzed juvenile cases for CNN to determine whether they had been destroyed before the statutes of limitations.

“What police do when they destroy rape kits, and other evidence of crimes against children before the statute of limitations has passed, is rob them of their full chance at justice.”

Hamilton and CNN identified 47 children’s and teenagers’ rape kits that were destroyed before the statutes of limitations expired or where there was no time limit to prosecute. At least 39 were untested.

CNN’s analysis did not include “unfounded” cases, those in which police determined that no crime was attempted or occurred. But Hamilton, whose non-profit CHILD USA advocates for sexual abuse victims, argued that given the complexity of child sex abuse, juvenile reports should rarely be labeled unfounded.

In Fallon, Nevada, a detective dismissed a 7-year-old’s case as unfounded, partly because the child looked away from him as he questioned her in 2013. The girl described how a man had assaulted her anally, orally and vaginally the previous night, and then methodically cleansed her body.

Even though the child was consistent in describing the incident to others, the detective said her body language — looking away — indicated she was being deceptive.

The detective suggested to her parents that they get her psychological help.

Police destroyed the girl’s untested rape kit seven months after the allegations of abuse were made.

Experts said the 7-year-old’s account should have raised a red flag; until children reach puberty and start to have sexual urges, they are generally incapable of imagining rape scenarios. The detective, they added, seemed to judge the child’s body language as he would an adult’s.

The police chief in Fallon, Kevin Gehman, said the girl’s account was fully investigated but acknowledged “some weaknesses in the investigative process.” He would not elaborate.

CNN’s questions about the case prompted a review of all sexual assault investigations by the police and the city attorney. As a result, the attorney instructed police to stop destroying rape kits.

Hamilton and other experts said it is rare for minors to disclose abuse soon after it occurs. Out of fear or confusion — or because predators manipulate them — young victims may delay talking about what happened for years, if not decades. That’s all the more reason to maintain their rape kits.

When children report what happened immediately, “it’s extraordinary,” Hamilton said. “When they have a rape kit, that’s a gift.”

‘We thought we were doing things the right way

As head of the Fayetteville Police Department cold case unit, Lieutenant John Somerindyke discovered the massive rape kit destruction that prompted Chief Medlock to hold a news conference. Both men felt compelled to right the department’s wrong.

Somerindyke has spent the last two years looking at old rape cases, figuring out whether sex crimes cases involving more than 300 victims could be reinvestigated — without their rape kits.

In the beginning, he could barely get through the reports. “I was angry,” he said. “It got to the point where I had to stop reading…It was getting so disheartening.”

Many cases looked as though they could have been solved, but the investigations were deeply flawed. The problems were the result of a lack of training, he said, but also a department culture that failed to take sex crimes as seriously as other violent felonies.

“The priority was homicides. After that, it was business robberies and aggravated assaults,” he said. “The emphasis wasn’t placed on rapes.”

He said detectives were working rape cases “probably like we work a crackhead that got robbed in the projects at 2 in the morning.”

The lieutenant was disgusted by the way police treated evidence differently.

“I don’t think we were just getting rid of the guns like we were with the rape kits.”

The evidence audit Somerindyke was asked to perform has helped the department identify its weaknesses in sex crimes investigations and learn from its mistakes.

Auditing sex crimes investigations, experts said, should be routine in law enforcement. It’s not.

One law enforcement agency — the Philadelphia Police Department — holds itself accountable every year for how sex crimes are investigated by reviewing its cases side by side with attorneys from the Philadelphia Women’s Law Project.

That effort began after a 1999 Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed that police had mishandled sex crimes cases for two decades.

The collaboration “overnight had the effect of demonstrating that there could be credibility in terms of the investigative process,” said Chuck Wexler, head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an industry leader in advocating best practices. “There’s definitely a need for that kind of quality control.”

He’s long encouraged agencies to replicate “The Philadelphia Model,” but Wexler had trouble thinking of departments that have done so.

In May, the forum issued guidelines saying police should not only do internal reviews of investigations but bring in outside experts to examine cases, too.

“It’s the essence of community policing,” said Carol Tracy, an attorney and director of the Women’s Law Project. She reviewed rape investigations from five agencies for CNN and has consulted with departments across the country grappling with their backlog of untested rape kits.

“Kits being destroyed — that is something I didn’t realize was happening,” she said.

She said she doubts the public knows that poorly conducted investigations play a role in improper rape kit destruction. “They don’t know so they aren’t applying pressure to departments to make them audit their work.”

Fayetteville’s effort to be transparent about the past meant trying to contact the victims whose kits were destroyed. Somerindyke and his officers reached 260 victims; three agreed to work with police again. One of the reopened cases ended with a successful prosecution.

Somerindyke remains hopeful and still talks about getting justice for rape victims. His drive is partly tied to his own feelings of guilt. He worked sex crimes years ago and was among the detectives who signed off on the destruction of rape kits.

“We really want to do the right thing now,” the lieutenant said. “The right thing wasn’t done a long time ago.”

He said the bad police work wasn’t malicious. It was the result of poor training or no training at all on sexual violence and its impact. It was old-fashioned bias that ruined cases. It was a failure to hire enough investigators and treat rape like a serious crime.

Had Somerindyke been asked before the audit whether his police department had improperly destroyed kits or mishandled rape investigations, he would not have known the answer.

“We thought we were doing things the right way.”

He hopes the turmoil in Fayetteville sends a message to other law enforcement agencies that are destroying rape kits.

“Stop,” he said. “Get training. Look at what you’re doing. Reassess.”

Distributed by LAKANA. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

For the last five years Def Leppard fans, those without money to burn, may have feared the old saying ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ would prove depressingly true for them. After all, it was 2013 when the Sheffield quintet performed their 1987 masterpiece ‘Hysteria’ in its entirety during a residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Nevada.

This winter, however, Christmas will definitely come early for anyone who’s been longing to see the rock ‘n’ roll giants run through that game-changing record a little closer to home, with a wide-ranging UK and Ireland arena tour in the diary before a headline outing at next summer’s Download festival at Donington Park.

Courtesy of two hugely influential albums that were made in cahoots with producer—and unofficial sixth member—Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange, Def Leppard were one of the biggest, most imitated bands in the world during the ‘80s. Not only did 1983’s ‘Pyromania’ move upwards of 10 million units in the USA, they followed that four years later with ‘Hysteria’, an LP that spawned seven hit singles and went on to set some mind-bending sales records, with over 25 million copies shifted worldwide.

It was to be their last release with original guitarist Steve Clark, who died in 1991 at the age of 30 following a long struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, and although they fought back from that devastating loss with former Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell in tow, they were swimming against the current in the ‘90s and early part of this century after grunge, and then nu-metal, changed the hard rock landscape.  

Many of the old guard called it quits during that time, but Def Leppard stuck to their guns and have been rewarded with a spectacular latter-day resurgence that’s not only seen them playing major venues again, but also landed them a nomination for next year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We spoke to the band’s long-time guitar hero Phil Collen about the good times and bad, their trend-defying resurrection and why the force has—and always will be—strong with the 12-track colossus that is ‘Hysteria’.

I’ve seen shows where bands play a beloved album in full and sometimes they’re fantastic, other times everything else in the set feels anticlimactic and lacking in cohesion. How challenging was it to make everything work?

Actually, really easy. We’d done it in Vegas with ‘Viva Hysteria’. That was sweet because we were the opening act as well. We went on and did a 40 minute set of other songs, went off stage, had a shower, came back and did ‘Hysteria’. It was theatrical, so we thought we’ll try a version of it.

We were in Hawaii rehearsing and had two shows there. The first night we tried that approach and it sucked. It was like ‘Oh my god, this just does not feel right.’ So very un-Def Leppard. We changed the whole thing for the next night. We went on with ‘Hysteria’ then did five songs as an encore and it seemed to work great. It was night and day. Same building, same kind of audience, but a drastically different response.

Was there ever any talk of doing these ‘Hysteria’ shows in the round to replicate what you did back in the day?

Absolutely, but if I showed you the cost, that’s why we’re not. If everything was sold out and you knew that going into it, it would be a different thing. I remember us losing money on that tour in certain parts of the world and that was with selling out shows. It was so much fun playing in the round but, like I said, you’ve got to do a lot of full nights or be earning ridiculous money to make it work.

‘Hysteria’ is a very produced album with lots of layered vocals and guitars.  Was there a moment where you all looked at each other and thought ‘how on earth are we going to pull this off live?’

No. You never ever worry about if you can do it live. You have to create something and then worry about all the other shit later on. We did have that situation happen.  Love Bites went to number one in the States and we’d never played it as a band. It was a complete studio song. We attempted playing it and it was awful because there’s four guitar parts going off at the same time.

We had to condense it down, like a composite, of four parts into two. Then you had to sing over the top of that complicated guitar part. The first time we played it, it was ‘Oh my god this is a disaster. It’s never gonna happen. It’s gonna be embarrassing. They’re gonna laugh us off the stage.’ We scraped through the first show and after that it got easier. Now we do it in our sleep.  

It’s just coming to terms with that. Even when we started rehearsing these songs.  There’s three that are really demanding vocally. Not because they’re hard to sing, but hard to sing consistently—Don’t Shoot Shotgun, Run Riot and Excitable. There’s a lot of vocals in them and they’re pretty high and aggressive.  

At first, I was singing too aggressively and if I do that for too long I lose my voice. So you use all these little tricks, like middle voice, which is somewhere in-between a falsetto—which is high up there—or a chest throat voice, and there’s a thing in the middle called middle voice.  Certain lines you have to learn a certain way. When we were rehearsing we just had to do it over and over again. You have to find the key to unlock what you do to make it work.

‘Hysteria’ still sounds timeless whereas many ‘80s rock records are dated. Why do you think it’s aged so well?

Mutt Lange. In a nutshell. When we were recording ‘Hysteria’ I remember someone said to Mutt ‘Why do you take so long to record? Why are you doing this?’ And he said ‘So you’ll be talking about it in 20 years.’ Here we are, it’s been 31 years, and we’re still talking about it. He was right. When we made the record he’d say ‘Push harder, this isn’t good enough. It’s average for a chorus. It may work as a bridge but you’ve got to work harder with that.’ He would demand excellence from us. It wasn’t an ego thing and we wouldn’t get upset, we’d just try and please him and get something better.  

He was always the best singer in the room. He’s got great ideas. He was the best songwriter in the room. He can play any instrument. Apart from just wanting to make the record better he’d be on to an idea and you’d go ‘Wow, this is kind of magical’ and you want to see it through. There was a presence he had that wasn’t just a producer or songwriter. There was something else. We wanted to get something very special and different, not because we were obliged to make something better or it was stacks of vocals just for the sake of it. It was trying to create something we thought was amazing and he knew what he was doing.

You’ve begun kicking ideas around for a new album. Fans would be overjoyed if you announced you were making another record with Mutt. Realistically speaking, could that ever happen?

There’s a level of excellence Mutt has that no one else has. It takes time and people are not prepared to pay for that. If we said ‘We’re gonna do an album with Mutt but it’s gonna cost a hundred quid per album’, you know what I mean? I think we could do the odd song with Mutt but if we did a whole album, because of his level of excellence, it would take more time. It’s a jigsaw puzzle, there’s a mystery, a thing that unfolds that you have to navigate through, a journey.

I know it sounds weird but that’s how he works. You begin with a starting point and then follow a muse and away you go. His level of excellence isn’t just given away, it’s earned and worked for.  You can do an ordinary version of that but for the stuff you’re talking about, what fans would really want to hear, would take a lot of time. I don’t think he’d be prepared to do that, or us or the label. We couldn’t take that much time off.

You’ve talked about the ‘80s hair metal thing that ‘Pyromania’ unwittingly spawned as being very superficial. Is it frustrating that people lump you in with all those bands when you were pushing boundaries on that record and ‘Hysteria’?  

It is frustrating but I do think, now, the test of time is on our side. The fact we’re actually doing this, for example, speaks volumes. A lot of the other bands have disappeared and we just got that Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination. I would never have believed that I’d be 61 years old running around the stage half naked and playing and singing this way on these songs. I think that’s the difference, that’s what separates us. People couldn’t see it early on, they absolutely can now.

But has that specious assumption harmed your reputation and stopped you getting the respect your achievements deserve?

We’re not U2 and, singing songs like ‘let’s get, let’s get, let’s get rocked’, it’s hard to be taken seriously when you weigh it up like that. We’re a rock band and there’s a fun element to a lot of that stuff that we think is valid. It’s cool, it’s escapism, it’s meant to be a certain way. Like when we first saw T-Rex or Bowie. I do believe it got lost and we got lumped in with all that banal stuff where that was [seen as] a serious lyric.  

When we do lyrics like that it’s for a reason, an effect, we’re creating a song and environment for having a laugh and, also, making music that, sonically, sounds spectacular. We always said Mutt was making Star Wars for the ears. That was the approach. A lot of people didn’t do that and that’s why we got lumped in with all those awful bands. The fact this album is still doing its thing, it’s testament to the fact that it was very different to a lot of stuff that was out there.

Rick Savage said when you were making 92s ‘Adrenalize’ you were all in a trance after Steve’s death and sleepwalking through it, which is why it wasn’t as groundbreaking. But even if Steve had lived, and had Mutt been there the whole time instead of working with Bryan Adams, could you have realistically done anything to top ‘Hysteria’?

If we’d have followed up ‘Hysteria’ with ‘Slang’ or an album like that I think it would have been better. It should have been raw. Mutt said ‘Make it more like Guns N’ Roses, just kind of live in the studio’ and we didn’t. We started doing that thing and, before you know it, it just sounded like a poor cousin or stepchild to ‘Hysteria’. In hindsight, yes, it would have been better if we’d followed up with something that was nothing like it, that was actually raw, a different approach. That would have been a better way to go.  

You released a single titled Make Love Like A Man from ‘Adrenalize’ at the height of grunge. Did that indicate you hadn’t realised what was happening and were out of touch?

No. If that had come out two years after ‘Hysteria’ it would have been a different story. It would have been OK, but it wasn’t. We took too long on it, three and a half years, and everything changed in the meantime. The whole grunge thing took everyone by surprise and it was a really good thing to happen. The goal posts had been moved and we were stuck with this album that was dated.

Lyrically, everything about it, was something that should have happened three years prior. You can’t totally jump ship on something you’ve just spent three years on so we released it and it was number one for five weeks during the L.A. riots in the US and did really well.  But it would have been better had we done something a bit more aggressive. ‘Adrenalize’ was too sweet and poppy and wasn’t serious enough. Even the sound of it, sonically, should have been more of a ‘Slang’ thing.

‘Euphoria’ was a great return to a more vintage Leppard aesthetic. Was there a consensus in the band to go back to the classic sound or did any of you want to continue down the ‘Slang’ path?  

So, here’s what happens with bands who have very successful albums and then do something that’s less of a big deal. We put ‘Slang’ out and everyone hated it. I loved it, and there’s the odd fan who goes ‘this is great,’ but the label hated it because it didn’t do very well. It stung a little bit. People going ‘Oh god this sucks.’ When you hear your own fans saying that you take note.

When we did ‘Euphoria’ it was as a result of doing ‘Slang’ beforehand. It’s a tonic. I really like Promises and some stuff on there, like Paper Sun, is awesome. Actually, that would have been a better album to follow ‘Hysteria’. But you do an album a certain way and it has a certain amount of success, or doesn’t, and then you do something different. That’s what being an artist is all about and it’s hard to do that if you’re successful because you get painted in a corner.

How hard was it to deal with the ‘90s? Were you bitter? Did you have to grieve the loss of what you’d had?

No, we’re bloody English, come on! We’ve Yorkshiremen in the band. We did that British thing and have this value system. It’s a really hard-working thing we inherited from our parents, from World War Two survivors. They were getting blown up. My mum and Joe’s [Elliott] mum were running down the air raid shelters. It’s hard to believe. They did pass on a certain thing that you just work through it. And it’s pop music. Rock music. Getting your house blown up because some Nazis invaded your front room is a different story.  

If someone doesn’t like your music it’s not a big deal. It’s like ‘Fucking cheer up and straighten up and get on with it.’ So that’s exactly what we did. We’d go ‘OK, this isn’t working right now but we have faith in what we do, we’re really good, we’ll keep working at it and hopefully it will come around.’ And voila, it did.

Was there a specific moment when you realised things were changing and your resurgence was underway?

No, it’s been a really gradual thing and we take everything with a pinch of salt. Even the success. People are really fickle. Look at where we are with Facebook and Instagram and likes on YouTube. It’s a really tragic, fickle society we live in and you’ve got to bear that in mind. So, when you put anything out you’ve not got to get upset if people don’t like it and say you suck because in a year’s time they may go ‘Oh my god, you’re amazing.’  

That happened with us a bunch of times. I remember me and Steve sitting in some bar and this girl came in and insulted us. We were recording ‘Hysteria’ and she goes ‘Yeah you guys, it’s not really good, you’ve kind of lost the plot and there’s all this new stuff coming out now.’ And we released ‘Hysteria’ and it completely changed again. So, we don’t take anything too seriously. It’s just music.

You mentioned you’ve been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but what do you hope Def Leppard’s legacy will be?

Martin Luther King’s got a legacy, we’re just musicians. I think the main thing is the survival and the fact we’ve never given up. There’s a perseverance, a success, and we actually keep improving. I think that’s something we’ve got other bands don’t have.  I see a lot of other artists and, as they get old, their playing and singing starts suffering, and their writing and enthusiasm. Our enthusiasm has never waned and that’s a really inspiring thing from anyone, but especially a rock band, to keep that burning and keep inspiring people. That’s pretty cool.

‘Hysteria: The Singles’ and ‘The Story So Far – The Best Of’ are out now.

Def Leppard Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat December 01 2018 – DUBLIN 3Arena
Sun December 02 2018 – BELFAST SSE Arena Belfast
Tue December 04 2018 – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Thu December 06 2018 – LONDON O2 Arena
Sat December 08 2018 – NOTTINGHAM Motorpoint Arena 
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Hours after you are raped, you sit in a hospital room, under fluorescent lights, and consent to a forensic exam.

Your body is the crime scene.

When did it happen, a nurse asks. Where did it happen? Can you tell me who did this to you?

The nurse is trained to interview you and search your body for evidence left behind by your attacker. Knowing the details of your assault guides the examination.

Did he ejaculate inside of you, on you? Where did he touch you? Did he use any objects? Did he kiss you, lick you? Have you had anything to drink? Did you shower?

You’re asked to undress slowly while you stand on a special sheet meant to collect any trace evidence that shakes loose.

For three to five hours, the nurse swabs your mouth, your breasts, a bite mark on your neck. She scrapes under your fingernails, combs your pubic hair. She inserts a speculum inside you and drops blue dye on the tissue there to illuminate any places that are torn.

The nurse cuts a hair from your head. She takes photographs of your face and shoulders to pair with your chart, of you in the clothes you wore when you were attacked. Every injury is photographed, too — far away, close-up, with a ruler to show size.

When the exam is over, the nurse puts hair, fibers, swabs, vials of blood and urine in a container smaller than a shoebox. She seals it — your rape kit — and entrusts it to a police officer.

A woman who reported being gang raped holds her head in her arms.
This North Carolina woman reported being gang-raped. A detective botched her case, and her rape kit was destroyed. Read her full story here: ‘They treated me like trash.’ Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

This is the way DNA evidence is collected. This is what you endure so police can identify your assailant, make him pay for what he did.

No one tells you that the exam may be pointless — that police might treat your kit like trash.

A CNN investigation into the destruction of rape kits in dozens of agencies across the country found that police trashed evidence in 400 cases before the statutes of limitations expired or when there was no time limit to prosecute.

The number is likely higher and was arrived at through an analysis of the departments’ own records.

The destruction occurred since 2010 and followed flawed and incomplete investigations that relegated rape kits to shelves in police evidence rooms until they were destroyed. Dozens were trashed mere weeks or months after police took custody of the evidence, records showed.

Almost 80% were never tested for DNA evidence, a process that can identify a suspect or link that person to other crimes.

For the past several years, public attention has focused on the hundreds of thousands of kits that have languished untested. The Justice Department has awarded more than $150 million to test that backlog.

But destruction of rape kits is a lesser-known and more fundamental problem: The evidence is gone. It can never be used to lock up a rapist or set free the wrongfully convicted.

An examination room in a hospital.
Rape victims consent to invasive exams in the hope that the evidence gathered will bring their attackers to justice. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

“All the attention toward untested kits isn’t enough if we have agencies destroying kits,” said Wayne County, Michigan, Prosecutor Kym Worthy, whose testing of some 10,000 backlogged rape kits has identified at least 833 suspects linked to more than one sex crime.

“Each one of these kits represents a victim,” said the Detroit-based prosecutor. “What you are doing when you destroy a rape kit is destroying the chance that they are ever going to see justice.”

What you are doing […] is destroying the chance that they are ever going to see justice.

Kym Worthy | Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor

A woman who reported being gang-raped in 2007 said it was “absolutely devastating” to recently learn that police destroyed her untested kit.

She remembered the nurse at a hospital in Fayetteville, North Carolina, asking her to describe what the four men did so that her body could be positioned in a way that allowed for more precise examination.

“It was very invasive,” she recalled. “It was very degrading. The level of exposure … was a second violation.”

But she steeled herself because the nurse was collecting evidence, and she believed police would test it and use it in their investigation.

Instead, CNN found, the detective assigned to her case did nothing more than interview her. The officer never tried to talk to the men she named as her attackers, misinterpreted the law and concluded that no rape occurred. About a month after speaking with the woman, the detective authorized destruction of the untested rape kit — in a state where there was no time limit to prosecute rape.

“I counted on the police to do what they were supposed to do — to investigate what happened to me and to test that evidence,” she said. “Instead, they treated it like trash. They treated me like trash.”

A nurse wearing latex gloves and holding a speculum.
For some victims, the rape exam feels like a second trauma. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Veteran sex crimes investigators, along with experts in the law, trauma and forensic science, reviewed case files for CNN. They said investigations indicated that police lacked training in how to interact with victims of sexual violence; in the importance of testing kits, not only to solve the reported assaults but potentially other crimes; and in the need to preserve kits for the length of time the law allows for a prosecution.

“What CNN discovered is a systemic problem,” said Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant who ran the San Diego Police sex crimes unit for a decade. She examined 56 case files from more than a dozen departments.

What CNN discovered is a systemic problem.

Joanne Archambault | Former head of San Diego Police sex crimes unit

“It’s simple — but it’s not the norm — that law enforcement should keep evidence at least for the statute of limitations,” she said. “There are mistakes in these cases, but the worst mistake in each is the destruction of evidence.”

Twenty-five agencies in 14 states destroyed kits tied to cases while they could still be prosecuted.

Department leaders at some agencies defended the destruction by saying officers approved disposal of kits in closed cases they believed had no chance of moving forward. This was a routine process, they said, done to make space in evidence rooms.

At least five departments acknowledged that the decision to destroy kits was made without considering the statutes of limitations. Three stopped trashing kits because of CNN’s inquiries.

Experts said the destruction shows that rape is treated differently than other violent crimes.

“Would we test all the evidence” in a murder? “You bet,” said police trainer Tom Tremblay.

The former Vermont police chief, who has reviewed rape investigations for the US Department of Justice, examined cases from nine agencies.

The language police sometimes used, he and other experts said, suggested bias — describing victims’ accounts of their rapes as “having sex,” asking whether victims experienced orgasms and focusing on a victim’s behavior rather than the suspect’s.

All of it, Tremblay said, communicates one thing to a victim: You are not believed.

A woman wearing glasses and a red jacket.
Kym Worthy: The prosecutor is herself a rape survivor. She calls the destruction of rape kits a betrayal. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Worthy understands personally what’s at stake. She isn’t just a prosecutor; she’s a survivor. She was raped in law school, she said, and — like an estimated 68% of rape and sexual assault victims nationally — chose not to report her attack.

It is a triumph, Worthy said, when a victim musters the courage to go to police and consent to a rape exam. And destroying a rape kit is a betrayal.


Police Chief Harold Medlock was nervous. City attorneys had urged him to keep quiet, he said. But the Fayetteville, North Carolina, chief resisted. He was going public.

It was September 21, 2015, and Medlock was moments away from revealing that his department had destroyed 333 rape kits.

The evidence wasn’t trashed in some unfortunate mishap. For more than a decade, detectives had the sole power to greenlight destruction of rape kits in their cases, and they did so sometimes just months after victims reported their assaults. The objective was, in part, to make space in the evidence room. Most of the destroyed kits had never been tested.

In a recent interview, Medlock reflected on his decision to hold a press conference announcing the department’s failure to preserve kits. He said he had been warned that revealing the destruction could trigger lawsuits. But as he stepped to the podium, his mind was heavy with other fears.

Would the community ever trust the police again? Did the destruction of even one kit mean a rapist got away and went on to attack another victim?

As cameras snapped and reporters shouted questions, the chief owned up to the mistakes. He also asked his detectives to notify all of the victims about what had happened and, if possible, reinvestigate their assaults.

Fayetteville police said they stopped destroying kits in the fall of 2009, before North Carolina enacted a law prohibiting the disposal of biological evidence in unsolved rape and homicide cases. The chief’s revelation prompted CNN to examine whether the practice was widespread and ongoing.

How rape cases went wrong

Police files show flawed investigations led to the trashing of evidence

Reporters sent records requests to law enforcement agencies in every state — 207 departments in all — asking them to provide detailed information about any kit destroyed since 2010.

Four departments either refused to provide the information or did not respond to CNN’s repeated requests. The others split almost evenly: 102 said they had not destroyed kits. The 99 agencies that reported destruction were spread over 47 states. Records showed kits were trashed as recently as 2016, the year reporters made the requests. And interviews with several agencies indicate that the destruction either stopped this year or continues.

Blunder and betrayal

CNN’s Ana Cabrera, investigative reporter Ashley Fantz and a panel of experts examine the national tragedy of rape kit destruction through the lens of one case.  Play video

Comparing the work of police agencies proved difficult because of incomplete information and a lack of uniformity in how police classify cases. Departments said many kits were destroyed after the statutes of limitations expired, after cases reached resolutions in court or when an investigation demonstrated that a crime had not occurred. Those are circumstances in which it could be permissible to dispose of the evidence, some experts said. CNN excluded kits destroyed in those scenarios from its analysis.

Reporters also excluded tested rape kits destroyed by agencies that kept items from those kits (or whose crime labs did) because that evidence could help prosecutors bring charges. Forensics experts and defense attorneys, however, said the entire kit needs to be maintained to preserve a defendant’s right to re-test the evidence and challenge the original analysis.

An overhead view of rape kits in a cardboard box.
Rape kits kept beyond the statutes of limitations have helped solve other crimes. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

CNN identified agencies that reported destroying kits in less than two years. Requests for case files yielded more than 1,400 investigations from mostly small and medium-sized cities.

To determine whether kits were destroyed while there was still time to prosecute, reporters applied the shortest possible statutes of limitations for the sex crimes listed in case files. CNN’s tally is likely an undercount; some cases could have carried longer statutes of limitations than reporters could determine or no statutes of limitations at all.

Reporters focused on cases in which rape kits were destroyed after investigators were unable to identify or apprehend a suspect, prosecutors declined to file a charge or an investigation stopped because leads ran dry or a victim showed a reluctance to continue.

Destroying kits in those circumstances is misguided, experts said; police are failing to recognize that the passage of time can work on behalf of an investigation. A victim can decide to engage with police after a few years, and new evidence can emerge, making a prosecution possible.

“Even if a victim doesn’t want to be involved now doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind,” said David LaBahn, president of the national Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and a career California prosecutor. “If you have a statute of limitations that is still open, and a victim does change their mind but you’ve destroyed the kit — that’s a problem.”

A rape kit: Swabs, hair and other material collected in a forensic exam are sealed in a container the size of a shoebox. Melissa Golden/REDUX for CNN

Some experts said police should test and keep kits beyond the statutes of limitations because they have the potential to help solve other cases.

DNA recovered from a rape kit can be compared to the more than 17 million profiles taken from crime scenes, convicted offenders, detainees and arrestees contained in the national law enforcement database system known as CODIS. That process can not only identify assailants but link them to other crimes.

In California, police used decades-old kits — kept well beyond the statute of limitations for rape at the time — to help solve a serial killer cold case. Improved technology allowed police to match DNA in those kits to murders committed by the notorious Golden State Killer in the 1970s and 1980s. That profile, in turn, matched Joseph James DeAngelo, authorities said. He was arrested in April and has so far been charged with 13 counts of murder, some involving other offenses related to rape, robbery and burglary

In addition to cold cases, preserving and testing rape kits has the potential to help solve future crimes. Detectives investigating a rape, for example, may be able to link a suspect’s DNA to an earlier sexual assault in which DNA was uploaded to CODIS and establish a pattern of criminal behavior — something not uncommon among rapists and child molesters.

Last year, the federal government released guidelines on preserving kits. The National Institute of Justice recommends maintaining rape kits in “uncharged or unsolved reported cases” for at least 50 years or the length of the statute of limitations. But police are only obligated to follow their states’ evidence retention laws, which vary widely. Some require evidence be kept only after an arrest or conviction, and even those differ in whether that happens automatically or only after a convict files a petition. Others mandate retention when a case is still being investigated. Local jurisdictions can also enact their own rules governing when evidence must be kept.

The accused may have just as much at stake in the preservation of evidence as victims.

“[A defendant] has a right to have his own experts review that material,” said New Hampshire defense attorney Michael Iacopino, who has served on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “The analysis that was done…was [it] done correctly? Was it potentially contaminated?”

The ability to test or re-test the items in a rape kit played a role in overturning at least 195 convictions for rape, murder and other crimes since 1992, according to CNN’s analysis of data supplied by The National Registry of Exonerations.

Keith Harward spent 33 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. He walked out of a Virginia prison in 2016 because a rape kit and other evidence was maintained and could be tested. That analysis not only showed he was innocent but also identified the man who committed the crime.

“If it hadn’t been for the rape kit, I’d probably still be in prison,” said Harward, who was serving a life sentence. “So I say [to police], ‘What are you afraid of… by holding all the rape kits?’… Would you rather somebody [who’s innocent] get executed?”


During a life-threatening trauma like rape, the defense circuitry of the brain drives the victim’s sole objective: to survive.

Reflexes govern reaction — running away, punching the attacker, lying there paralyzed. Stress hormones can impair a victim’s memory and the ability to make complex, rational decisions.

Investigators trained in the effects of trauma know that a victim’s first account of an assault may not be complete, experts said, and it may not be the best time to ask some questions.

Yet documents CNN examined showed officers sometimes asked questions that threatened to overwhelm victims or put them on the defensive.

Did you say no? Did you fight back? Why didn’t you call police right away?

Chairs arranged around a table inside a police interview room.
Though experts say victims should be interviewed wherever they feel most comfortable, documents showed police sometimes ask them to come to the station, just as they do suspects. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

A traumatized person’s instinct is often to avoid the pain that can come from retelling or reliving the experience. Avoidance and withdrawal are common symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. But when victims pulled away from investigations soon after they reported being assaulted, when the trauma was fresh, some police officers were quick to label them uncooperative and close their cases.

“We’re trained to sniff out the liar,” said Justin Boardman, a former Utah police detective who teaches cops how to understand trauma. “So when you don’t give us this training that says — ‘Oh, she’s pulling away because she’s traumatized, or she can’t tell me this detail because she legit can’t remember’ — we think she’s lying or she’s hiding something.”

Experts who reviewed cases said detectives appeared to rush victims into making consequential decisions, effectively ending some cases. They noted that investigators violated longstanding best practices by asking victims if they wanted to prosecute their attackers soon after reporting the assaults to police — sometimes the same day. That question, they said, can intimidate victims and cause them to withdraw.

Prosecution should be discussed only after a thorough investigation is complete, experts said, when a prosecutor — not a victim — has determined that charges can be filed.

Some victims who expressed reluctance to proceed with a prosecution were asked to sign forms attesting to that. But victims should not be given waivers declining prosecution, according to guidelines by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as far back as 2005. Only the statute of limitations should constrain a victim’s right to change her or his mind about moving forward with a prosecution, the association says.

More recently issued guidelines also stress that an investigator should try to spend time building rapport with a victim. Unless the public is in imminent danger, law enforcement should work at a pace comfortable for the victim.

Some case files showed detectives closed cases and called victims uncooperative if they didn’t meet arbitrary deadlines.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, a woman reported being raped at knifepoint by a man who had once been a sexual partner. Police noted she’d been arrested for prostitution two years earlier and quizzed her about whether he was a client. She told them no. Though she did not know her assailant’s name, she called police twice after her initial interview with information she thought might help identify him, according to the case file.

But when she failed to return a detective’s call in a week’s time, he wrote that she was uncooperative and ended the investigation 17 days after she reported being raped. Her kit — never tested — was destroyed less than a year later, even though testing might have identified the man. There was no statute of limitations on the crime, meaning the woman should have had as much time as she needed to help police pursue her assailant.

A nurse closing a sealed evidence bag.
Rape survivors expect the evidence taken from their bodies to be sealed up, given to police and sent to a lab for testing. CNN found hundreds of kits were destroyed without being analyzed. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

North Charleston’s detective bureau commander, Major Scott Perry, declined to specify why the kit was destroyed. “Each case is evaluated on its own facts,” he said, adding that the investigation could be reopened at any time if the victim re-approached police. He conceded, however, that not having the rape kit would make the case “more difficult to prosecute.”

In Springfield, Missouri, police labeled victims uncooperative when they didn’t respond to letters mailed to their homes warning that they had 10 business days to contact a detective or their assaults would not be further investigated. In at least six cases, records show, a detective sent the letter the day the officer was assigned to investigate.

The victims had undergone rape exams and given initial accounts to patrol officers, actions that demonstrated a desire for the crimes to be investigated. But when victims didn’t meet that 10-day deadline, Springfield police sometimes sent another letter, telling victims their “failure” to respond led to the closing of their cases. The kits were later destroyed, even though the crimes remained within the statutes of limitations.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said the 10-day letter is a tool used in all kinds of cases to spur a victim to work with police. He said investigators should use it only as a last resort — after a detective has exhausted every other means to reach a victim. He did not explain why some letters were sent immediately after victims reported being raped.

The letter is “a way to justify not doing your job,” said Archambault, the retired San Diego sex crimes investigator who reviewed cases. It should never be sent to rape victims, she said.

“It’s horrendous. This type of response will guarantee that the majority of victims will not participate in the investigation.”

Victims sometimes leave their homes because they are afraid an attacker will find them again. It’s “absurd,” she said, to expect victims to check the mail and respond to a demand.

“It isn’t that [victims] are being uncooperative. They’re just dealing with survival. They’re trying to get out of bed, get their clothes on, get to work, get the kids to school,” Archambault said.

Police should instead give victims time — and access to counseling and services that help them feel safe, experts said. After that, they are far more likely to work with law enforcement.

A woman in a red jacket.
Joanne Archambault: The former sex crimes investigator says police label victims uncooperative, but “they’re just dealing with survival.” Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

A woman in West Valley, Utah, said she told police she was terrified that her rapist would hunt her down again, but she received neither time nor support.

According to her case file, the woman told a patrol officer that a man she’d broken up with came to her home and raped her. He ordered her to “shut her mouth,” or he would “hurt her,” she told the officer. He forced her into his car. She said she eventually managed to jump out and run into a K-Mart, where someone called 911.

The woman gave police an initial statement about the assault and underwent a rape exam. Ten days later, on January 27, 2009, Detective Ryan Humphrey noted that she called him. She said she was “scared to pursue charges,” he wrote in the case file.

He shut down the investigation.

CNN reached the woman, who was upset to learn that her rape kit was destroyed and never tested. She called the failure to analyze it “pathetic.”

Police did not offer to take steps to protect her, she said. If they had, she might have gained confidence and worked with police. She said she wishes they’d told her, “‘Well, we can still help you through this.’” (She asked that her name be withheld, and CNN does not typically identify sexual assault victims.)

Humphrey, who no longer works for the department, said that in the 10 days between the woman’s report and her phone call, he did not try to locate and interview the suspect or do any other work on the case.

Like investigators at other agencies, Humphrey said resources were tight, and he struggled under the weight of a heavy caseload.

He closed the investigation, he said, because he assumed that the district attorney wouldn’t file charges in a case without a victim’s cooperation.

As he reflected on the case, he acknowledged he could have given the woman more time by leaving the case open and trying to build trust and rapport with her. He could have done what experts said is protocol: offer her a safety plan to allay her fears, such as patrolling near her home or helping her file a restraining order.

He agreed that the woman could have changed her mind and re-engaged when she was ready — her right in a state that had no statute of limitations to prosecute rape at the time she reported the crime.

“Obviously, she wanted to pursue it,” he said, “because she went to the hospital and had a rape exam done.”

Medical exam instruments arranged on a shelf.
A specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner may spend three to five hours or more gathering evidence from a victim’s body. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Humphrey said he did not authorize destruction of the woman’s rape kit but understood that once he closed a case, the evidence would be disposed.

Her kit should have been preserved, he said. Not keeping the investigation open was “a mistake. I look back at this case and can see that….”


There are many obstacles to a successful rape investigation. A victim is too scared to continue working with police. A suspect claims sex was consensual. Testing a kit doesn’t crack a case.

But those circumstances shouldn’t necessarily end an investigation. Officers can press pause and set cases aside, then reopen them if there’s a break — a victim changes his or her mind, new leads emerge, technology improves and evidence can be retested.

Yet CNN identified 17 departments that destroyed a combined 92 kits in sex crimes investigations that police described as open or in other terms that mean the same thing, such as inactive or suspended.

In Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White acknowledged that his department discarded rape kits in cases marked inactive.

“Sometimes,” he said, “it appears we were too quick at the trigger to dispose.”

In Farmington, New Mexico, police reported destroying kits in at least eight cases labeled inactive. Chief Steve Hebbe reviewed those cases and said the kits should not have been trashed. He then ordered a major change.

“We will not destroy sexual assault kits,” he said. “We’re not going to destroy them until after the statute of limitations is out.” The chief also said he made sure his officers received fresh training in sex crimes investigations.

Proper training includes an understanding of what DNA testing can do — even when suspects claim sex was consensual. In several departments, CNN found officers failed to test kits in so-called consent cases because they believed testing would only demonstrate that sex occurred, not whether a crime occurred.

That’s short-sighted, experts said. A DNA profile of the suspect in a consent case could match a DNA profile of an unidentified attacker in another rape, connecting those crimes and helping to solve them both. The testing of the backlog in Wayne County, Michigan, has linked kits in “consent” cases to suspects in other sexual assaults, said prosecutor Worthy.

CNN also discovered cases in which police listed “insufficient evidence” as a reason to destroy kits that were never analyzed. Testing might have produced evidence, advancing investigations while there was still time to prosecute.

Even a tested kit that fails to yield DNA evidence during an initial analysis should be preserved, forensic experts said, because testing technology is constantly improving. DNA that couldn’t be detected just a few years ago can sometimes be recovered today.

Blake Nakamura, the chief deputy prosecutor in Utah’s Salt Lake County, said he came to understand the importance of preserving evidence in sex crimes cases years ago.

Nakamura has been on both sides in the courtroom. As a private defense attorney, he successfully defended a man accused of sexually abusing a child by blocking the admission of evidence. When he became a prosecutor, he wanted to be able to admit all evidence and knew he had to protect rape kits from destruction.

So in 2011, he sent a memo to police departments in his county, notifying them to keep all evidence in sex offense cases. At least two failed to follow his directive: Salt Lake City and West Valley. They provided records to CNN showing they continued to destroy kits for at least a couple more years.

They also provided documentation showing why: Prosecutors in Nakamura’s office approved the destruction.

When CNN showed those records to Nakamura, he was irate. He later spoke with his staff in colorful language he said he couldn’t share. But the prosecutor feels certain they got his message.


It is particularly egregious, experts said, to destroy rape kits belonging to children, the most vulnerable victims.

Young victims often can’t express what happened to them, so their rape kits can speak for them. The evidence can prove abuse because suspects, unlike in adult cases, can’t argue that sexual contact was consensual.

Toys arranged in an interview room used for child victims.
Children who report being sexually assaulted should be interviewed by experts trained in dealing with young victims. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Statutes of limitations for teenagers and children typically do not start until victims reach adulthood.

“It takes years to comprehend the trauma of child sex abuse, well into adulthood, to decide whether to move forward,” said Marci Hamilton, a professor and attorney who analyzed juvenile cases for CNN to determine whether they had been destroyed before the statutes of limitations.

“What police do when they destroy rape kits, and other evidence of crimes against children before the statute of limitations has passed, is rob them of their full chance at justice.”

Hamilton and CNN identified 47 children’s and teenagers’ rape kits that were destroyed before the statutes of limitations expired or where there was no time limit to prosecute. At least 39 were untested.

CNN’s analysis did not include “unfounded” cases, those in which police determined that no crime was attempted or occurred. But Hamilton, whose non-profit CHILD USA advocates for sexual abuse victims, argued that given the complexity of child sex abuse, juvenile reports should rarely be labeled unfounded.

In Fallon, Nevada, a detective dismissed a 7-year-old’s case as unfounded, partly because the child looked away from him as he questioned her in 2013. The girl described how a man had assaulted her anally, orally and vaginally the previous night, and then methodically cleansed her body.

Even though the child was consistent in describing the incident to others, the detective said her body language — looking away — indicated she was being deceptive.

The detective suggested to her parents that they get her psychological help.

A woman wearing glasses and a blue jacket.
Marci Hamilton: The head of CHILD USA says children rarely report sexual abuse when it happens; when they do, “it’s extraordinary. When they have a rape kit, that’s a gift.” Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Police destroyed the girl’s untested rape kit seven months after the allegations of abuse were made.

Experts said the 7-year-old’s account should have raised a red flag; until children reach puberty and start to have sexual urges, they are generally incapable of imagining rape scenarios. The detective, they added, seemed to judge the child’s body language as he would an adult’s.

The police chief in Fallon, Kevin Gehman, said the girl’s account was fully investigated but acknowledged “some weaknesses in the investigative process.” He would not elaborate.

CNN’s questions about the case prompted a review of all sexual assault investigations by the police and the city attorney. As a result, the attorney instructed police to stop destroying rape kits.

A sexual assault kit used with child victims.
The statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children typically do not begin ticking until they reach legal adulthood. Melissa Golden/REDUX for CNN

Hamilton and other experts said it is rare for minors to disclose abuse soon after it occurs. Out of fear or confusion — or because predators manipulate them — young victims may delay talking about what happened for years, if not decades. That’s all the more reason to maintain their rape kits.

When children report what happened immediately, “it’s extraordinary,” Hamilton said. “When they have a rape kit, that’s a gift.”


As head of the Fayetteville Police Department cold case unit, Lieutenant John Somerindyke discovered the massive rape kit destruction that prompted Chief Medlock to hold a press conference. Both men felt compelled to right the department’s wrong.

Somerindyke has spent the last two years looking at old rape cases, figuring out whether the sex crimes involving more than 300 victims could be reinvestigated — without their rape kits.

In the beginning, he could barely get through the reports. “I was angry,” he said. “It got to the point where I had to stop reading…It was getting so disheartening.”

Many cases looked as though they could have been solved, but the investigations were deeply flawed. The problems were the result of a lack of training, he said, but also a department culture that failed to take sex crimes as seriously as other violent felonies.

“The priority was homicides. After that, it was business robberies and aggravated assaults,” he said. “The emphasis wasn’t placed on rapes.”

He said detectives were working rape cases “probably like we work a crackhead that got robbed in the projects at 2 in the morning.”

The lieutenant was disgusted by the way police treated evidence differently.

“I don’t think we were just getting rid of the guns like we were with the rape kits.”

A man wearing a blue shirt and plaid tie.
Lieutenant John Somerindyke: The head of Fayetteville’s cold case unit has spent two years reviewing old rape files. Many cases looked as though they could have been solved, but the evidence was gone. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

The evidence audit Somerindyke was asked to perform has helped the department identify its weaknesses in sex crimes investigations and learn from its mistakes.

Auditing sex crimes investigations, experts said, should be routine in law enforcement. It’s not.

One law enforcement agency — the Philadelphia Police Department — holds itself accountable every year for how sex crimes are investigated by reviewing its cases side-by-side with attorneys from the Philadelphia Women’s Law Project.

That effort began after a 1999 Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed that police had mishandled sex crimes cases for two decades.

The collaboration “overnight had the effect of demonstrating that there could be credibility in terms of the investigative process,” said Chuck Wexler, head of the Police Executive Research Forum, an industry leader in advocating best practices. “There’s definitely a need for that kind of quality control.”

He’s long encouraged agencies to replicate “The Philadelphia Model,” but Wexler had trouble thinking of departments that have done so.

In May, the forum issued guidelines saying police should not only do internal reviews of investigations but bring in outside experts to examine cases, too.

“It’s the essence of community policing,” said Carol Tracy, an attorney and director of the Women’s Law Project. She reviewed rape investigations from five agencies for CNN and has consulted with departments across the country grappling with their backlog of untested rape kits.

“Kits being destroyed — that is something I didn’t realize was happening,” she said.

She said she doubts the public knows that poorly conducted investigations play a role in improper rape kit destruction. “They don’t know so they aren’t applying pressure to departments to make them audit their work.”

Fayetteville’s effort to be transparent about the past meant trying to contact the victims whose kits were destroyed. Somerindyke and his officers reached 260 victims; three agreed to work with police again. One of the reopened cases ended with a successful prosecution.

Somerindyke remains hopeful and still talks about getting justice for rape victims. His drive is partly tied to his own feelings of guilt. He worked sex crimes years ago and was among the detectives who signed off on the destruction of rape kits.

“We really want to do the right thing now,” the lieutenant said. “The right thing wasn’t done a long time ago.”

He said the bad police work wasn’t malicious. It was the result of poor training or no training at all on sexual violence and its impact. It was old-fashioned bias that ruined cases. It was a failure to hire enough investigators and treat rape like a serious crime.

Had Somerindyke been asked before the audit whether his police department had improperly destroyed kits or mishandled rape investigations, he would not have known the answer.

“We thought we were doing things the right way.”

He hopes the turmoil in Fayetteville sends a message to other law enforcement agencies that are destroying rape kits.

“Stop,” he said. “Get training. Look at what you’re doing. Reassess.”

The backs of two police detectives walking down a hallway.
Lieutenant John Somerindyke, right, and Detective John Benazzi contacted 260 victims whose rape kits were destroyed and offered to reinvestigate. Three were willing to work with them. Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN

Are you a survivor? An investigator? Resources for you

For sexual assault survivors:

For law enforcement officers:

Shop locally

Great natural, handmade soap, beard wash, oil and balm, lotions, bath salts and more are made and sold in Williamsburg. Visit the Perfectly Natural Soap store at 2021 Richmond Road. Great for gifts and to treat yourself and everyone who is important in your life. Why shop at chain stores when you can shop locally?

Goodwin Plaza

If the current P3 area was already a grassy and treed plaza, and then Colonial Williamsburg proposed to pave it over into a parking area, then how many locals would strongly object to that? I suspect that most of those who currently object to getting rid of the parking would object to that as well.

Looking for …

For those asking about getting firewood, call Scott at 757-869-2981.

This is in reference to those looking for firewood delivered: Call 757-564-0229. We can deliver it in our Tacoma pickup for you. Thank you.

Too many calls

For the person calling about too many calls: I just found out about from Cox that you can sign up at nomorobo.com and supposedly it automatically has thousands of numbers on it already, and it’s supposed to be able to detect the robo calls. Anyway, you have to go to nomorobo.com and sign up — it’s free. For your mobile device, I believe I read that it was $1.99 a month. Have a Merry Christmas.

Immigrants

For weeks we have heard about “caravans” of would-be political refugees from various strife-torn Central American countries, hoping to cross the U.S. border. So far, no one has said a word about other countries where they might seek refuge. For example, Costa Rica is a very well-run country that speaks their language and could presumably take some. For another example, Canada has gone on record that they are happy to take other political refugees who have been turned down by the U.S. I see no effort to provide transportation to Canada for any of these desperate refugees. Solving the problem to everyone’s satisfaction is surely more in our interest than causing more pain, dislocation and delay.

License plates

In regard to Saturday’s Last Word comment “License plates:” The caller put in there a very contentious and very detrimental thing about our president, of wanting/implying that he should be in jail. Mr. Trump, our president, works very hard for no salary. He’s doing his utmost to keep our country safe. Our economy is up. People have jobs. He has done a great thing for this country. Look at the nice and reputable, strong-willed people that he put in the Supreme Court. This person should retract what they has said about our president. It is terrible.

Regarding the comment about license plates in Wednesday’s paper: Donald Trump probably has a better chance of making them in the future instead of appearing on them.

To the commenter suggesting that President Trump should be in jail: That can never happen because with all the Democrats in jail, there is no room for even one Republican.

To the person who hopes Trump will be in the place where they make license plates: I’d like to know, what in the heck is the deal? As a private citizen and as president, he’s not broken any laws. Just because you don’t like what he texts or says, that’s not against the law.

Thank you

We were recently at the Walmart on Rochambeau Drive when our granddaughter lost her cellphone. We’d just like to say thank you to the person who turned it in to customer service. We appreciate your honesty. Thank you.

Thank you so much to Greg Hansom, a really Good Samaritan, who came to my aid just before Thanksgiving. There I was, in the Aldi parking lot, unable to find my car key and with $50 of groceries that included frozen food and ice cream. He saw me struggling and asked if he could help. I went inside the store to the cash register where I had paid for my food. I did not find my key and so left my name and telephone number in case my keys were found. Greg loaded the groceries into his truck, drove me home and carried the groceries into my house. I located a spare key and my son drove me back to Aldi so I could get my car. The very next day, someone from the store called with the wonderful news that she had found my key! Thank you, thank you, to Greg and to the lady at the store who found my keys and called me. There are good people in Williamsburg, and I am very grateful.

Market sell off

Regarding the recent market sell off: I’m sure Democrats would be the first in line for soup, as they want everything for free.

Up in Washington

President Trump needs to take his foot out of his mouth and then keep it shut. Armistice Day, Arlington Cemetery and now criticizing the Navy SEALS, our honored/elite fighting group that took out Bin Laden, the world’s worst terrorist in history — how dare he?

I didn’t like it when Obama was elected president, but I didn’t have to blab it all over the Last Word all the time. Give Mr. Trump a chance, for heaven’s sake.

Trump should have sent 50 immigration judges to the border and they could have proceeded to process the asylum requests in a week . It would have cost 99 percent less than sending troops.

In response to the person who mentioned U.S. interest/Khashoggi in Saturday’s last word. My question is do you really have to be a “leftist” to care about the planned torture and dismembering of another human being? And why do you question the facts? The CIA has investigated this crime and has concluded that it was ordered by the Crown Prince. That in itself is a horrible crime. But the fact that Trump continues to support and associate with the Saudis without caring what they have done is appalling. Khashoggi was a reporter and whether or not he was a U.S. citizen does not make the crime less horrible. He was a U.S. resident and his ordered murder should not be acceptable to anyone. What’s happened to humanity when you make excuses for the way people are treated?