Rape victim sues city of Houston over backlog of untested rape kits

HOUSTON – A rape victim is filing a class-action lawsuit against the city of Houston over a backlog of untested rape kits.

The woman claims the city did not test thousands of rape kits, and she said if the kits had been tested, her assault, and others, could have been prevented.

"The City of Houston, for years and years, refused to process rape kits.  Rape kits which would have caught serial rapists," said attorney Randall Kallinen.

The plaintiff wants a jury trial and she is asking that the city of Houston implement procedures to speed up the testing of evidence kits.

She also wants to hold a number of former and current mayors and police chiefs accountable.

A federal civil rights class-action lawsuit filed at the Bob Casey U.S. Courthouse in downtown Houston will be announced Tuesday at City Hall. It targets a host of past and present Houston city leaders.

The case involves 53-year-old convicted child rapist David Lee Cooper -- whose criminal record dates back to the 1980s -- including aggravated robbery, kidnapping, unlawful restraint and sexual assault of a child, for which he is now serving life in prison.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit said cooper's DNA was in several of the untested rape kits involving other alleged victims and said if those kits had been tested -- she believes police could've arrested Cooper before he assaulted her.

The victim -- Dejenay Beckwith -- in a statement to KPRC said, "I want Houston to implement procedures for prompt processing of sexual assault evidence kits so that others do not have to needlessly endure what I did."

"Too long the police department and the City of Houston lied to these women and discriminated against them by not testing their rape kits," said attorney Charles Peckham.

The Houston Forensic Science Center -- which conducts forensic testing for the city -- said that while they cannot comment on the lawsuit, they are "keenly aware of the importance of processing sexual assault evidence in a timely manner. Since taking over management of the Houston Police Department's forensic operations in 2014, HFSC has eliminated legacy and incoming backlogs of sexual assault evidence."

The list of defendants includes Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Police Chief Art Acevedo and several former mayors -- including Annise Parker, Bill White, and the estate of the late mayor Bob Lanier.

Also listed as defendants are six former police chiefs.

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