Attendees at a summit on sexual assault kits praised Memphis’ work on the issue yesterday as Memphis Mayor A C Wharton defended a decision to close the meeting to the public, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Wharton said representatives of 13 cities shared strategies for catching sexual predators, not “jolly, jolly war stories.” He added, “This was not a meeting in which we exchanged pleasantries.” Tim McGinty, prosecutor in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, said attendees had “frank conversations,” including self-criticism about their “failures.” Kym Worthy, prosecutor in Wayne County, Mi., said attendees didn’t want to jeopardize ongoing cases by discussing them publicly.
Robert Doyel, a Florida judge, tweeted: “Memphis holding rape kit summit in secrecy, afraid cities might embarrass themselves about their ‘best practices.'” “I could understand banning media if victims were talking, but victims weren’t invited,” tweeted Meaghan Ybos, a sexual assault victim who filed a lawsuit against Memphis for its handling of her kit. Worthy said one of the benefits of the summit was that seeing Memphis’ work to reduce its backlog of more than 12,000 unprocessed sexual assault kits helped cities understand the important of the issue. At the end of August, Memphis had completed analysis on 5,250 of those kits, 42 percent of its original backlog. The Memphis session was the second annual Sexual Assault Kit summit for cities. The next summit will be held in Detroit.