Are new laws needed for rape kit testing in Tennessee?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rape victims and their lawyer are refusing to let the law let them down again. This week, they filed a new lawsuit in state court demanding money from Memphis because the police department failed to test more than 10,000 rape kits over three decades.

Wednesday, State Senator Mark Norris told WREG what he wants to see done in Nashville to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Daniel Lofton is representing a group of victims who want answers. He says while police are to blame, so is the law, or lack thereof, when it comes to testing rape kits.

“Ultimately it will take legislation that is real specific on this, and draws some black and white lines on what has to be done with rape kit evidence,” he said.

WREG uncovered the problem four years ago, but it wasn’t until late last year the city did anything about it. The city is now in the process of getting 12,000 untested kits checked for DNA, but says it needs help paying for it.

Norris tried to help make that happen earlier this year, but realized most of the state didn’t like the idea. Wednesday, Norris told WREG the state must set some guidelines and laws.

“I don’t think it would be a bad idea, for clarity sake,” he said.

Last session, Norris failed to convince fellow lawmakers more money is needed for testing.

Another controversial question is, should police test every kit? Norris wants to make it mandatory.

“It puts it at issue. So there is a discussion about what is and is not necessary. What is and is not appropriate,” he said.

He and Lofton agree that this isn’t a Memphis problem. It’s a Tennessee problem.

“It will hopefully set a new standard for operations here.”

Norris says on September 1, lawmakers will get a report on how many backlogged rape kits there are in the entire state of Tennessee, and they will use that number to formulate a plan moving forward.

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