MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Final arguments were heard Thursday in a class action lawsuit to determine whether the City of Memphis is liable for inflicting emotional distress on rape victims by failing to test over 12,000 rape kits.
Judge Gina Higgins heard summary judgment arguments in Janet Doe v. The City of Memphis. Higgins is expected to rule on whether the city is liable, who is owed and how much, and also will rule if it is a class action lawsuit.
If she doesn’t make the summary judgment, that means there would be a trial.
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The plaintiffs had asked for a delay in the judge’s ruling when they were in court last October. The plaintiffs said they found a witness who said it was false when the city claimed it couldn’t test “no-suspect” rape kits prior to 2002 because there was no national database system.
“It wasn’t the standard in Memphis and it wasn’t the standard anywhere in Tennessee to submit no-suspect cases to TBI for testing because there was no investigatory purpose. There was nothing that could be done with it,” said John Lacky, attorney for the City of Memphis.
“No one disputes the city was negligent. And that’s all the court has to decide. This is the simplest case in the world. The city has spent over a million dollars making it complicated,” said Attorney Daniel Lofton who is representing the plaintiffs.
The city said that the witness did not contradict himself.
Higgins set a date of March 22 to come back to court for a ruling on the summary judgment.
Emotions were high outside Circuit Court as several rape victims — who say they want their names and faces publicized — went before TV cameras and recalled the trauma that changed their lives. They had hoped for a summary judgment Thursday.
They agreed to give samples on a rape kit and then waited years for the kit to be tested.
“They want us to just forget about something that they didn’t do. Ya’ll didn’t help us. Ya’ll wasn’t there for us,” said Samantha Shell. “It took them to 2004 to 2018-19 to find the man who raped him and I was just a kid. Why it took so long?”
The victims have been in court for years after learning the City of Memphis never tested their rape kits. They want the city to pay for it.
Debbie Dalhoff has been waiting for justice after being raped 38 years ago.
“I’m angry. I am angry. They have horribly failed us and they have still not fixed the problem,” Dalhoff said. “I was angry. I’ve been angry for 38 years. Was angry when I found out my kit was in the bottom of a dump site. I want to be an advocate for these other women.”