MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands of victims will soon have clarity on how Memphis will be held accountable for the mishandling of rape investigations from 1985 to 2014.
Preliminary hearings in the lawsuit have been going on eight years. They wrapped up Friday.
Attorneys argued several key elements, including whether the city is liable for damages.
Judge Gina Higgins will now decide whether the victims in more than 12,000 rape cases can file a class action lawsuit.
“We’ve got an obligation to hold our city accountable,” plaintiff’s attorney Gary Smith said in court.
But in court, attorneys for Memphis said police followed DNA testing standards of the time and argued the victims’ cases are all different enough they can’t join into one class action lawsuit.
“The plaintiffs are engaged in a sophisticated game of bait and switch,” Memphis attorney Richard Myers said.
Victims sitting in the courtroom said they were exhausted by the city’s efforts.
“I am extremely angry and it’s hard because you’ve been angry for 39 years you expect peace. You expect some kind of justice,” Debby Dalhoff said.
“I been doing this 39 years. Sometimes I wake up middle of the night stressed. I can’t get over this and they’re constantly dragging it out,” Celia Reynolds said.
After the hearing, WREG asked city attorneys if they have any messages for the victims.
“We really speak through our litigation and our pleadings,” Jon Lakey said.
They declined to explain any more.
As for what’s next, Smith said the judge’s decision will determine how they move forward.
“If the class is certified they’ve got 12,000-plus claimants. If not certified, then we’re going to be adding many, many, many more individuals,” Smith said.
The judge said she’d make a ruling on how the case will move forward within the next two weeks.