Rape Kits Still Untested By TBI

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(Nashville, TN) "We provided the (TBI) Tennessee Bureau of Investigation this year several tens of thousands of dollars for several projects they thought were important, but this was not listed as one of them," said State Sen. Jim Kyle, who sits on the senate finance committee.

It appears testing rape kits is not one of TBI's priorities.

Kyle he wants to know if  money is the reason the TBI  isn't testing every rape kit.

TBI spokesman Kristin Helm says the agency  aggressively goes after federal funding for DNA evidence processing.

" We very much rely on federal grants," she said. " There have been a lot of DNA federal grant money that TBI has received."

Kyle says that's not enough and plans to see what else is available.

" I will go back to Nashville and have conversation about this matter and see if this something we can get done, he said.

News Channel 3 uncovered that the TBI performed preliminary tests on 1,500 backlogged rape kits sent there in 2010  by the Memphis Police Department..

About half those kits contained enough evidence for DNA testing.

The TBI only tested 11 of 700 kits for DNA the rest went back to the MPD property room.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris wants to know why, " If it`s a good sample and they've got the serology and they can go forward they are doing that. If they`re not, I`ll find out why."

One reason is a 20-year-old TBI policy, created when DNA evidence testing was in its infancy.

The policy states: "Full DNA tests are not performed without prior request from the district attorney general."

Those requests only come after police build a case a strong enough case to  prosecute.

Memphis Deputy Police Chief Jim Harvey said multiple agencies decide  which kits to send for DNA processing on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts.

'It takes I think, three different agencies to sign off on it to have one tested," Harvey said. "You've got to have the police department for one, the attorney general`s office and TBI. All three agree to process the kits."

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich's office is bound by TBI policy to send the letters.

She said her office always asks for DNA processing on cases MPD wants tested.

"The focus needs to be that every case is different," Weirich said.  "And that just sending a bunch of kits off to a lab to be tested isn't the easy fix, isn't the answer to everyone`s problems."

After repeated questioning from the On Your Side Investigators-- all three agencies argeed only 11 of the 700 rape kits with DNA should be tested.

They say the majority of cases don't have enough evidence to prosecute because the kits don't actually prove if someone was raped,  they only identify DNA.

While there may not be enough evidence to prove every reported rape, 689 kits with DNA on them sit untested, meaning serial rapists may never be caught or even identified--making the women brutally attacked feel like victims again.

The TBI said there's no plan to change the rape kit policy because it works for Tennessee's system.

Lawmakers will have the final say on that.

They can look towards Michigan as an example.

That state just gave Detroit $4 million  to do all possible DNA tests on 11 thousand newly discovered rape kits

After Detroit started testing its backlogged rape kits, they tested 569 rape kits and from those tests, they identified 32 serial rapists.

They look at the testing as a crime-fighting tool.