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Destruction of Evidence a Question in Rape Kit Depositions

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Karen Pulfer Focht
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Continuing coverage of the Memphis rape kit lawsuit is in collaboration with the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting.

A retired official could shed new light on allegations that the Memphis Police Department destroyed evidence in numbers of rape cases spanning more than a decade.

Two years ago, former evidence room manager Lester Ditto said he destroyed evidence, including rape kits, in hundreds and possibly thousands of sex crimes cases back in the 1990s.

Ditto contends that, acting on a faulty legal memo, he and his staff threw the evidence in a landfill to help clear his congested evidence room.

Ditto’s claims have finally made their way into court via testimony taken from a top-ranking police officer. Plaintiff’s attorney Gary K. Smith asked Assistant Police Chief Don Crowe if he knew of Ditto’s allegations.

Smith: Were you aware that during this time period that MPD disposed of thousands of S.A.K.s [Sexual Assault Kits]? Threw them away in a dump?

Crowe: No, sir.

Smith: My suggestion of that right here, is that the first you ever heard of that?

Crowe: Yes, sir.

Smith: Assume that it's true, that MPD took literally thousands of these S.A.K.s and threw them in a garbage dump. You would not approve of that, would you?

Crowe: No, sir.

Smith: That would be inappropriate, wouldn't it?

Crowe: Yes, sir.

Crowe later stated that he believed MPD didn’t destroy kits because "we found kits very consistently through the early '80s and then after our inventory was completed in 2014, we actually found sexual assault kits from the '70s."

Ditto was not referenced by name during the hearing. But court records show attorney Smith has filed a notice to take testimony from Ditto in another deposition hearing. That could happen as early as this week. Victims sued the City of Memphis in 2014, and allege years of negligence by the police department.