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Class Claims Memphis Spoiled 15,000 Rape Kits

MEMPHIS (CN) - Memphis did not bother to submit 15,000 rape evidence kits for testing, but merely threw them away or "caused the spoliation of the sexual assault kits," Jane Doe claims in a federal class action.

Doe is an adult victim of rape and a resident of Memphis, she says in the lawsuit against the city.

"Plaintiff and the putative class members are female individuals who reported sexual assaults to third parties, had bodily fluid samples removed from their bodies and placed within sexual assault evidence kits, and whose sexual assault kits were subsequently transported to the Memphis Police Department for testing, evidentiary and custodial purposes," the complaint states. "The City of Memphis failed to submit over 15,000 such sexual assault kits for further testing and caused the spoliation of the sexual assault kits, all of which resulted in damages to the plaintiff and the putative class, which constitutes a violation of the equal protection clauses of the Tennessee and United States Constitutions."

Doe says she was raped at around 2 a.m. on March 30, 2001, by an intruder who kicked in a window of her home. She reported the rape to Memphis police that day, and was taken to a Rape Crisis Center for treatment and collection of evidence.

"While at the Rape Crisis Center medical personnel took body fluid samples from Jane Doe and placed them into a Memphis Police Department Sexual Assault Evidence Kit," she says in the complaint.

It continues: "An officer from the Memphis Police Department transported the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit to the Memphis Police Department ostensibly for testing and to be used as evidence against the intruder.

"Over the next thirteen (13) years defendant City of Memphis never submitted plaintiff Doe's Sexual Assault Evidence Kit for testing.

"Unknown to plaintiff Doe, the City of Memphis had a policy, practice and/or custom of discarding sexual assault evidence kits.

"Unknown to Plaintiff Doe, the City of Memphis had a policy, practice and/or custom of failing to submit sexual assault evidence kits for testing:

"Over fifteen thousand (15,000) Sexual Assault Evidence Kits went untested over a period of several decades."

It goes without saying, though Doe says it, that a "disproportionate number" of the people whose rape tests were spoiled or trashed were women.

She claims that the policy of discarding rape evidence kits "was ratified by multiple policymakers within the City of Memphis Police Department."

She claims Memphis police failed to "affect an arrest of" Doe's home intruder and failed to "prevent future rapes by the intruder."

She claims that the "defendant has a history of discriminating against females" and that the "defendant's conduct was motivated by gender."

She seeks an injunction "restraining and prohibiting defendants from continuing its policy and/or custom of failing to test sexual assault evidence kits," declaratory judgment that city policy on handling of sexual assault evidence is unconstitutional, damages for civil rights violations, plus costs and attorney's fees.

She is represented by Robert L.J. Spence Jr., with Spencewalk, of Memphis.

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