Weekly Round-up November 24th, 2014

Manhattan DA’s Pledge to End Rape-Kit Testing Backlogs:

  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has pledged to use $35 million in funds received as the result of civil forfeitures to help end the backlog in rape-kits around the country. The money comes from the settlement with BNP Paribas for violating financial sanctions.
  • The funding is meant to help cities with extensive backlogs such as Memphis and Las Vegas. Between these two cities the backlog in testing rape kits is estimated between 15,000 and 16,000. Rape kits contain the evidence including photographs, blood samples, clothing, and bodily fluids collected by health care officials following a sexual assault.
  • The District Attorney’s Office has teamed up with the Joyful Heart Foundation. The Foundation’s president is Mariska Hartigay, the star of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The funding will first go to any backlog in New York. Then, the Joyful Heart Foundation will provide technical assistance and advise the District Attorney’s Office on the most efficient ways of distributing the funds.
  • Since Federal and State officials are generally not required to keep track of rape-kit backlogs, there is no official number of how many kits have gone untested. It is estimated that there are about 100,000 backlogged kits.


Parent’s Dispute In Family Court Over Donating Two Year Old Daughter’s Organs Comes To An End:

  • On Monday, November 17, 2014, a Brooklyn Family Court judge ruled that the medical professionals at Brookdale Hospital would have to keep two year old Thaiya Spruill-Smith on life support for at least another day. The child was being kept alive by machines while her parents continued to dispute whether her organs should be donated.
  • Last Friday Thaiya was declared brain-dead. Her stepfather, David Adams, has been charged with causing the injuries which led to her condition.
  • Initially, the stepfather had been charged with assault but the charges will likely be upgraded to murder if the medical examiner’s office rules the death a homicide.
  • Thaiya had been the subject of a custody battle between her parents since shortly after birth. Thaiya’s father, Terrell Smith, suspected that his daughter was being abused after he noticed bruises on her body in June and August. He notified the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. Mr. Smith was attempting to get custody of Thaiya from her mother, Ms. Spruill. Her mother said that she petitioned for an order of protection against Thaiya’s father because he had threatened her with violence.
  • In September, Thaiya had been removed from her mother’s home and placed with her maternal great-grandmother for four days while allegations of abuse were investigated. Then she was returned to her mother’s home.
  • Thaiya’s mother and father were in disagreement over what should be done with her organs. Her mother, Ms. Spruill, would have liked Thaiya’s organs go to another child. Her father was unwilling to donate Thaiya’s organs and felt that his complaints regarding abuse were ignored. He stated, “If they’d have been listening to me from the get-go… My daughter’s eyes is beautiful; I don’t want nothing removed.”   Mr.  Smith believed that the parent granted custody should be the one to decide if Thaiya’s organs would be donated.
  • Julia E. Rivera, a spokeswoman for the New York Organ Donor Network explained that in New York, if there is no family agreement and the potential donor is not a registered organ donor, then the organs will not be donated.  Therefore, because Thaiya’s parents were in disagreement over what would be done with her organs, the custody issue was moot.  Additionally, there was no issue as to the father’s paternity; his name was on her birth certificate.  Both the mother and father retained an equal right to decide what would happen to her organs.
  • The case was set to continue on Tuesday, November 17, 2014, but Mr. Smith withdrew his custody petition.  Thaiya was taken off of life support and she died on Wednesday, November 19, 2014.  Thaiya’s organs will not be donated.
  • To read more about this, please click here and here.