Report attributes rape kit backlog to 'failure to understanding - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Report attributes rape kit backlog to 'failure to understanding importance of DNA testing nationwide'

City of Memphis sent a news release Tuesday that said Coleman-Davis completed the report, which included the reasons behind the failure to test the 12,000 backlogged kits.  (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file) City of Memphis sent a news release Tuesday that said Coleman-Davis completed the report, which included the reasons behind the failure to test the 12,000 backlogged kits. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5 file)

(WMC) - A report into Memphis' untested rape kits revealed that the city's backlog can be attributed to officials following a standard of practice; one that has now evolved and is no longer are considered the best method.

Mayor A C Wharton hired former U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis to review current policies and procedures. She visited storage facilities of untested kits, and interviewed law enforcement officers and criminal justice leaders.

City of Memphis sent a news release Tuesday that said Coleman-Davis completed the report, which included the reasons behind the failure to test the 12,000 backlogged kits.

"I discovered no malice or wanton disregard or conspiracies to ignore established policies, procedures or standard practices in place during this time," said Coleman-Davis in the release. "Rather, I found that there was a general and collective failure to understand the importance of DNA testing as was reflected in common practices in place locally and nationwide."

Another finding revealed a worker's death stalled rape kit testing.

The report says key data was lost when a criminalist hired to manage the kits died. Criminalist Hyun Kim died in the late 90s and none of his work could be found.

Coleman-Davis' report says Kim was responsible for maintaining the chain of custody of evidence and to keep track of Tennessee Bureau lab reports, but nothing was computerized.

Meanwhile, the police department says 18 people have been indicted as a result of the city's effort to end the backlog, but 5,553 rape kits remain untested and the project faces a $3.8 million funding gap.

Many worry the cases will not be prosecuted before the statue of limitations passes.

"Some of these cases, we've indicted the DNA to stop the clock," said Memphis Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Harvey.

Coleman-Davis also says the sex crimes unit is severely understaffed, but she is confidant training is solid and a backlog won't happen again.

An estimated $5 million to $6 million is needed to fund the entire effort, with $2 million already secured.

You can see the full report here: http://bit.ly/1iEWVfQ. And see a PowerPoint of the information here: http://bit.ly/1smtCZ1

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