Justice Denied? The Exceptional Clearance of Rape Cases in Los Angeles
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of the exceptional clearance in sexual assault cases. Using data on sexual assaults reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (“LAPD”) and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (“LASD”) from 2005 through 2009, we examine the way these cases are cleared, with a focus on cases that are cleared by arrest and by exceptional means. In addition, we use detailed qualitative and quantitative data on a sample of cases from 2008 to identify the characteristics of cases that are cleared exceptionally and to evaluate the reasons given by police and prosecutors to justify this type of clearance. We begin with a discussion of the circumstances under which cases may be cleared exceptionally and with a summary of the limited research examining the use of this clearance type. We then describe the decision-making context in Los Angeles, with a focus on the role played by the prosecutor in the “pre-arrest screening process.” The following section examines cases cleared by exceptional means and evaluates the extent to which these cases meet the four criteria that the FBI requires be met before this clearance type can be used. We end the paper with a discussion of the policy implications of (mis)using the exceptional clearance.