NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With the brutal murder of Eliza Fletcher last year, the TBI’s backlog of rape kits became center stage.
Fingers were pointed after another woman came forward saying she had been raped by the same suspect one year before.
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“There needs to be a reasonable timeline set on DNA testing on rape kits and other DNA kits,” Sen. London Lamar (D-Memphis) said.
Lamar filed a new bill to address just that. “What that bill would do will require TBI to test rape kits within 30 days.”
Currently, law enforcement is required to send the kit to TBI within 30 days, but Tennessee Code doesn’t dictate actually testing them.
If the bill does pass, it’ll also require the TBI to submit a plan for eliminating the current backlog within 45 days of it taking effect.
“I think about the young Black lady whose rape kit didn’t get tested,” Lamar said. “That also brings knowledge to the discrepancies of whose rape kits get tested first and whose doesn’t.”
The bill is expected to have bipartisan support.
Though House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) didn’t want to speak to the bill itself, he did say the TBI clearly needs more funding. “We’ve added resources previously, but it needs to be times ten,” Lamberth said. “It needs to be that we fully fund TBI’s mission.”
Lamar said the issue is twofold – the TBI needs to get through these kits quicker, but it also needs the resources to make that happen.
“I want to support the TBI’s efforts to increase the pay rates of scientists, so we can compete with other states in our region around hiring appropriate scientists and giving them decent wages so they can do the work,” she said.
That funding, though, can’t come from the bill itself. It has to come from the state budget.
“I think in the budget this year and hope that in the proposed budget, we will see a significant increase for TBI,” Lamberth said.
If it passes, the goal is to have any backlog eliminated by the beginning of 2024.