Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter assumes ‘responsibility’ for evidence task force, November opponent Mark Myles wonders ‘what took so long, and why now?’
By Darla Shelden on October 6, 2018
Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced this week, in a press release from his state government office, he will “assume authority over and responsibility for the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force going forward.”
Law enforcement agencies, Hunter and other state officials have been criticized for slow movement in rectifying the state’s backlog in processing of rape evidence kits.
Hunter — appointed to the A.G.’s job after Scott Pruitt left to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the nation’s capital — won the Republican nomination for the position in the August 28 runoff election.
Responding to a request for comment from The City Sentinel concerning the announcement from Hunter’s office this past week, Democratic nominee Mark Myles said:
“Thirty-four days before the election, Mike Hunter finally moves to have his office assume leadership of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force in an attempt to improve the rate of testing rape kits.”
Myles, critical of the Sooner State’s slow processing of rape kits in a timely fashion, characterized the delay as “justice denied for both victims and alleged perpetrators.”
Myles pointed out that Governor Mary Fallin signed an executive order in April 2017 which created the evidence task force. The group was tasked to work with law enforcement agencies to audit evidence rooms and report on the number of untested rape kits. This summer, the task force estimated there were still thousands of untested kits.
In his exchange with this repoter, Myles noted Hunter’s “office has been a part of the examination of the test delays, and only now is asserting belated leadership over the process.” Myles told The City Sentinel he was compelled to ask, “What took so long, and why now?”
On Wednesday (October 3), the press release from the agency the appointed incumbent runs pointed out that a decision to take control of the task force process “comes after the attorney general obtained both Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Kevin Stitt and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Drew Edmondson’s support to put the functions of the task force under the purview of the Attorney General’s Office.”
The government press release quoted Hunter as saying, “members of the task force made monumental strides throughout the course of their meetings. They have produced a solid foundation of policy recommendations. I look forward to working with the members of the task force and members of the Legislature on both sides of the aisle in a deliberate way to deliver meaningful reforms and the funding necessary to assist law enforcement efforts to bring justice for victims.”
Hunter continued, “This is not a partisan issue. In order to get the state where it needs to be and further support victims, we must put political differences aside and work together to find practical solutions.”
In a recent interview with CapitolBeatOK and The City Sentinel, Myles observed, concerning the rape kit backlog, “I do know the entire process has been extremely flawed. I’ve actually worked legal cases and know of two instances when the results from old kits were so inconclusive, flawed, that the alleged victim may not have gotten justice from the results. Part of the problem is money which highlights an issue. Criminal justice is a core function of government and should be fully funded from the general fund. I will advocate for that as Attorney General. That should fix the problem.”
In that earlier interview, Myles said Hunter “has used his time in government to boost his campaign for an elected term first.”
On the latter point, Myles continued, saying the incumbent “basically has a state-funded reelection endeavor with the Opioid Commission. It looks like he has three press releases from his state office each and every day. He holds lots of meetings that will benefit his election campaign. He did that through the primary, the runoff and the Opioid Commission meetings resume this fall to boost his election. … He finds a way to get on TV every day, it seems.”