Attorney General Beshear Talks Rape Kit Testing, Open Records Lawsuit

Mar 29, 2017

Credit David Brinkley

Kentucky is making progress in addressing a backlog of untested rape kits.  A 2015 audit revealed the commonwealth had more than three-thousand untested kits, which include physical evidence collected from sexual assault victims. 

Attorney General Andy Beshear says about 1,500 of those kits have now been examined and the DNA entered into a national crime database.

"We have active investigations going on right now," Beshear told WKU Public Radio.  "The hits suggests there is at least one serial rapist that has been identified and this is an absolute critical step that we are going to follow through with until every single victim has their kit tested."

Beshear says rape victims are beginning to be notified by police in hopes of reopening cases and prosecuting offenders.  The A-G says the investigations can be a slow process since there are many cold cases, with some dating back to the 1970s. 

Kentucky's attorney general was on the WKU campus this week, helping kick off April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  In an interview with WKU Public Radio, Beshear said he believes that the university violated the state's Open Records statute by denying records to the student newspapers at WKU and UK.  The newspapers were requesting redacted documents related to sexual misconduct investigations. 

WKU officials also refused to allow the attorney general's office to confidentially review the documents to determine if they were improperly withheld.

"The arguments that WKU is making threaten the very underpinnings of the open records law," Beshear stated.  "It would allow bad actors to hide documents that are embarrassing or necessary to hold them accountable.  It's truly the silver bullet that would render the Kentucky Open Records Act ineffectual."

WKU President Gary Ransdell also spoke at Monday's event on sexual assault awareness.  He pledged the university would "do all we can to protect victims of sexual assault and their privacy."

"If you want to put a chill on sexual assault prevention, then make it clear to women-or men-who choose not to go to the police, but who want to file a complaint, that their personal choice is subject to open records," Ransdell remarked.  "Nothing would deter women from coming forward more than the knowledge that their pain would be proclaimed in the media."

A hearing on whether the attorney general can intervene in the WKU lawsuit will be held April 3 in Warren Circuit Court.