MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Lawyers for the City of Memphis want a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by a woman who says police failed to properly investigate her rape, arguing that police have no duty under law to investigate.
Alicia Franklin claims she was raped by Cleotha Abston-Henderson, but he wasn’t arrested because evidence in her case was never tested. Abston-Henderson was later accused in the murder of jogger Eliza Fletcher.
The city this week filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, calling it “immaterial, impertinent and scandalous.”
Franklin’s attorney, Gary K. Smith, called the city’s response “ludicrous” and “absurd,” because Abston-Henderson is the suspect and the connection in both Franklin’s rape case and the murder of Eliza Fletcher.
“[The City of Memphis is] trying to say our allegation that there is a connection between her rape, the failure to arrest her rapist and the ultimate murder of Eliza Fletcher is immaterial, impertinent, scandalous. None of that is true,” said Smith.
Franklin was raped in September of 2021. One year later, Fletcher’s abduction and murder took place in September of 2022.
Franklin’s attorney says MPD failed to investigate her rape, allowing Henderson to remain free until he allegedly killed Fletcher.
“The Eliza Fletcher murder torments her in the sense that she trusted the police department to arrest the rapist. They did not do that,” said Smith.
In the lawsuit, an attorney for the City of Memphis writes that police have no such obligation.
“As set forth herein, there is no general duty to investigate under Tennessee law,” the city’s motion states. “To impose such a duty would subject the City to potential liability whenever a complaining victim is dissatisfied with a police investigation.”
Franklin’s attorney also says during a 12-month period, his client’s rape kit went untested in a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab.
“We know from the rape kit backlog case that the Memphis Police Department has not taken the crime of rape as seriously as they should,” said Smith.
The attorney says this fight is a long way from being over, and in the next few days, they’ll file a reply to the city’s motion to dismiss this case and await the judge’s decision.