Former DA blames rape kit backlog on systematic failure - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Former DA blames rape kit backlog on systematic failure

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Bill Gibbons served as the District Attorney from 1997 to 2011. Bill Gibbons served as the District Attorney from 1997 to 2011.
Many rape victims say they were violated again when their rape kits were left untested. Many rape victims say they were violated again when their rape kits were left untested.

(WMC-TV) - Many rape victims say they were violated again when their rape kits were left untested. Although, a lack of testing does not necessarily violate their constitutional rights.

The backlog in the more than 12,000 untested rape kids goes back to the 1980s. Bill Gibbons served as the District Attorney from 1997 to 2011.

"It's more of a systemic failure over decades. And why? I don't have the answer for that," he said.

But for victims, answers are the only thing they hope for after going through the process of a rape test kit.

"You're laid out on a table. They put your feet up in stirrups, you know, and you're there forever. And it's not fun," said an anonymous victim, whose rape kit sat on a shelf for two years before it was tested.

Many woman leave with the expectation that their kit will be tested and could possibly lead to an arrest, but it turns out that may not be their constitutional right.

"The state has a general obligation to enforce the law, but a wide desecration in deciding how variously to do it and not to do it," said

constitutional Attorney Steve Mulroy.

He says the only way a woman's rights are violated in this case is if the delay or backlog was because of discrimination.

"There's no constitutional right being violated, no cause for a judge to intervene ... At least under federal constitutional law," said Mulroy.

Gibbons had no comment on the constitutionality of testing kits, but he admits that looking back it is something that should have been done.

He hopes that will change in the future.

"I think it was a systemic failure, and I don't think you can really pin point any particular individual who was responsible for it," said Gibbons.

Gibbons says under his leadership he followed the policy, which was to routinely ask TBI to test any kit that investigators asked to have tested.

Right now, the City of Memphis is responding to a federal lawsuit to try and prevent this from happening again.

Copyright 2014 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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