Sep 30, 2022 - Politics

Lee, legislative leaders fast-track TBI lab positions

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee and legislative leaders will fast-track new hires in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation forensic labs that test DNA evidence.

Why it matters: The governor announced the plan Thursday as part of the urgent effort to shorten the months-long wait times to process criminal evidence, including sexual assault kits.

Driving the news: Long turnaround times for testing drew widespread interest after Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher was kidnapped and killed.

  • Authorities say DNA evidence connects the suspect in that case to a September 2021 sexual assault.
  • But a TBI lab did not receive the results until 11 months later, just before the kidnapping, per the Tennessean.

State of play: Last year, the TBI asked for 50 additional positions in forensics. The 2022-23 budget funded half of them. The new plan from Lee and legislative leadership would make up the difference with an additional 25 hires.

  • Under the plan, TBI would use existing funds to start hiring for the new round of positions. They will be fully funded in the 2023-24 budget.
  • There is bipartisan support for efforts to shorten testing times.

What they're saying: Lee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally touted the plan in a statement.


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