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OCME Hosts Vice President Joe Biden

New York, NY – The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) welcomed Vice President Joe Biden, United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. on Thursday, September 10, for a special announcement about funding to end the national backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits. OCME helped to eliminate New York City’s backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits in 2003 through DNA testing and analysis.

Vice President Biden, Attorney General Lynch, and District Attorney Vance announced separate, but complementary, awards totaling nearly $80 million for 26 states across the country. The funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office will help test an estimated 56,475 sexual assault evidence kits, while the federal funding is expected to test approximately 13,500 kits.

Prior to the announcement, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara A. Sampson led Vice President Biden, Attorney General Lynch, District Attorney Vance, and special guest, actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, on a tour of the DNA training laboratory operated by OCME’s Forensic Biology Department. OCME’s DNA laboratory played an instrumental role in helping to eliminate the sexual assault evidence kit backlog in New York City in 2003, an effort that became a model for other jurisdictions. More than 17,000 kits were tested between 2000 and 2003, and New York City continues to be free of any sexual assault evidence kit backlog.

Chief Medical Examiner of New York City Dr. Barbara A. Sampson said: “As home to the largest and most advanced public forensic DNA laboratory in North America, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner works independently and tirelessly at the leading edge of science in the service of justice. We are proud to have helped end the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits in New York City in 2003, and set an example for other jurisdictions in the course of that project. The efforts of our dedicated scientists ensure that our City continues to remain free of any backlog in sexual assault cases, while all evidence is analyzed rapidly and accurately under the strictest, state of the art protocols.”

Sexual assault evidence kits consist of evidence collected from victims by health care professionals following a sexual assault. The DNA evidence contained in these kits tested by forensic scientists can help law enforcement identify suspects, convict perpetrators, and exonerate the innocent. OCME’s DNA laboratory analyzes approximately 1,500 sexual assault evidence kits each year.

The OCME Department of Forensic Biology operates the largest public DNA crime laboratory in North America and is recognized for its leadership in new and emerging technologies. Staffed by more than 160 forensic scientists, supervisors and managers, the lab performs serology and DNA testing on physical evidence from criminal cases within the City of New York. The lab tests thousands of items of evidence each year from nearly every category of crime including homicide, sexual assault, felony assault, robbery, burglary, hate crimes, and weapons possession. The lab also performs testing associated with missing persons, unidentified remains, and the ongoing effort to identify World Trade Center victims.

For more information on OCME’s DNA laboratory and its work to eliminate the sexual assault evidence kit backlog in New York City, please contact the OCME Office of Public Affairs at (212) 447-2041.