Lawmaker Files Bill To Mandate 30 Day Window For Testing Of Rape Kits In Tennessee (Update 1/5/23)

***Update 1/5/23 – SB0014 has been refiled has SB0071. The legislation has also gained a sponsor in the House with Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville-District 56); House Bill 0024 (HB0024)***

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

New potential legislation would make it a requirement that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation process all rape kits within 30 days of collection.

Legislators are attempting to help address the backlog of processing evidence kits in the state. The TBI has dealt with immense criticism after the public became more aware of the lengthy delay in testing the kits, following the highly-publicized kidnapping and murder of Memphis schoolteacher Eliza Fletcher

Legislators on both sides of the political spectrum have made it known that new legislation would be coming as a result of information gathered during the Fletcher case as they prepare for the 113th Tennessee General Assembly.


Following his arrest in the Fletcher investigation, Cleotha Henderson was linked to the 2021 rape of Alicia Franklin after the evidence kit in that case was processed just days after he was arrested.

Senator London Lamar, a Democrat from Memphis, has already filed Senate Bill 14 which would require that the TBI process all evidence within “30 days of the bureau’s receipt of the sexual assault evidence collection kit from a law enforcement agency.”

According to the Tennessean, the TBI was averaging more than 34 weeks to test rape kits, with some taking as long as 49 weeks due to a lack of staff at their Jackson lab. 

“DNA evidence is the key to solve a crime and get justice for a victim of sexual assault,” said Lamar.

The TBI requested funding last year from the state to hire additional forensic scientists, but those positions were not funded. The TBI has since been given a federal grant to help with the problem and Governor Bill Lee has plans to work on finding additional funding. However, it can take up to 18 months to train individuals for those jobs.


Lamar believes it is going to take more than just hiring more people.

“I’m supportive of administrative changes to reduce testing times, like increasing pay for the scientists who are testing kits,” said Lamar. “That’s how we retain and attract highly qualified people. But it is the legislature’s job to provide our labs with the resources they need to end this wait time and make sure a yearlong backlog never happens again.”

It is expected that legislators will also be looking at additional proposals involving sentencing. Republicans have been pushing for harsher sentencing for quite some time, and many of these issues have been brought back to light after the Fletcher case.

State Representative John Gillespie of Memphis has already introduced a bill that would address the sentence for kidnapping. House Bill 5 would require that aggravated kidnapping be considered a Class B felony and carry a sentence of at least 12 years. It would also require that defendants who are convicted of “especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony, register as a sex offender.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

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