New consultant hired to investigate rape kit backlog - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

New consultant hired to investigate rape kit backlog

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

One of the most impressive legal resumes in Memphis is getting another addition.

Former Western District U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman-Davis has been hired to become the point person for an investigation of the backlog of untested rape kits.

From public defender to U.S. Attorney and in private practice Coleman-Davis has probably heard every excuse in a courtroom. So who better would be more equipped to find the real truth behind what the mists of time had kept hidden for decades.

MORE: Wharton: Could take 5 years to process 12K rape kits

To a degree she could probably relate to Michael Corleone's famous lament in The Godfather: Part III: "Every time I try to get out, they drag me back in!" But, Coleman-Davis has often stood ready to at least temporarily step into government service whenever her prodigious legal and investigative skills are needed.

In this case, it's a Memphis City Hall assignment which includes getting to the bottom of just why thousands of untested rape kits were stockpiled instead of processed for decades. Just like Sherlock Holmes she's devised a plan to  uncover the mystery.

"I want to see the physical locations as well," she said. "But, to be able to talk to the people who were with the various agencies and departments involved, and ask them what was going on at that time?

Introduced at a news conference on Wednesday by Mayor A C Wharton, Coleman-Davis has been hired, at the rate of $7,500 a month for what's projected as a three-month stint. Her workload, without a staff to do the legwork, figures to a hefty one. That starts with a talk with Police Director Toney Armstrong and then broadens out.

"I'm going go to (the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)," she said. "I'm going to do the serology, the labs, any labs that had any contact with these cases. The advocacy groups. Anybody that had anything to do with these sexual assault kits, I want to talk to them."

While compiling the backlog history is important, the rest of Coleman-Davis' duty will be to help set a future course for best practices when it comes to, not only handling the rape kits, but in understanding the traumas and frustrations rape victims must face which she experienced first hand in dealing with them as a public defender.

"While a lot of women want to know and want to see their perpetrator prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law," Coleman-Davis said. "There are those out there who don't want to relive that. Don't want to go through it again, so, you have to be sensitive to that from every perspective."

As for whether or not her investigation might turn up some criminal wrongdoing, like a seasoned prosecutor, Coleman-Davis demurred.

"So it's just an inquiry," she said. "It's not a blame game and I hope people don't see it as that. We just don't want to get here. We don't want to come to this place again."

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