TN Legislature To Take On Untested Rape Kits

(Memphis) There’s new hope for thousands of rape victims in Memphis, as state lawmakers consider a bill that would require the testing of rape evidence that’s been sitting on shelves for years.

The Tennessee legislative session starts next Tuesday and one of the things it will be considering is a bill by State Senator Mark Norris to get to the bottom of this injustice for rape victims across the state.

Rape kits can take evidence from a crime and put a rapist in jail making the streets safer.

That’s not happening because in Memphis 12,000 of rape kits from as far back as the 1980’s are collecting dust while rapists are free possibly committing more crimes.

News Channel 3 uncovered this and has been pushing for justice from the beginning, and now State Senator Norris is jumping onboard.

“This is a nationwide problem not just Memphis. Memphis maybe the biggest and there is a whole open question about why that’s the case,” said Senator Norris.

The bill requires local police and sheriff’s offices to take inventory of all rape kits and evidence and turn those numbers over to the TBI.

The TBI will then turn the investigations over to the General Assembly.

“We’ve got to quantify the scope of the problem before we can fix it and figure out how to pay to fix it,” said Norris.

Paying for the testing is the big question mark.

The City of Memphis is asking for financial help to get that done.

Right now, the state tests the rape evidence with your tax money, and soon legislators could shift some of that testing responsibility back to the local authorities.

Governor Bill Haslam spoke with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton about the issue Thursday.

“I had a conversation with Mayor Wharton today here about the situation and what he thinks the state’s role may be going forward with that so I told him I’d have a follow-up conversation with him next week about what that might look like,” said Governor Haslam.

Governor Haslam says the state will have to look at Senator Norris’s bill and see how it impacts the entire state and not just Memphis before they take action.

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