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Prosecutor offered to review order before sheriff's office destroyed rape kits

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - A Hamilton County prosecutor offered to review an order before evidence was destroyed in 25 rape cases, according to an email obtained by Channel 3 Eyewitness News.

That contradicts what sheriff's office officials told Channel 3 a couple months ago when they claimed that the district attorney's office reviewed all of the cases.

READ MORE | 3 INVESTIGATES: Destruction of rape kits under review following Channel 3 investigation

The email was sent after Assistant District Attorney Amanda Morrison spoke with Hamilton County Sheriff's Sgt. Duane Hill.

Hill reportedly never told the district attorney's office that he planned to destroy rape kits. He only asked about destroying guns and drugs, said Hamilton County District Attorney spokesperson Melydia Clewell.

Morrison sent Hill two orders for destruction to use as examples when drafting the order.

“I hope that these are of help to you. If you would like me to review them before you take them to the judge for signature, don't hesitate to email me your drafts,” said Morrison to Hill in an email dated Oct. 16, a couple weeks before the kits were destroyed.

Morrison never heard back from Hill, Clewell said.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Johnson said on Monday that Hill never submitted the order for Morrison to review before appearing before now retired Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern in October.

“Ms. Morrison provided guidance and offered to review any drafts of orders, but this was not a directive or requirement from the District Attorney that orders are to be reviewed by his office,” he said.

The sheriff's office initially reported that 80 kits were destroyed in April.

However, an order dated for October showed only 25 kits were incinerated by an out-of-state contracted company.

The sheriff's office does not have specific rules that dictate how long evidence is kept in rape cases. Officials said cases are destroyed on a “case-by-case” basis.

Not every case is reviewed by the district attorney's office.

Johnson said the sheriff's office has postponed destroying more evidence.

“We are awaiting further guidance from the District Attorney regarding destruction orders concerning sexual assault kits. Until guidance is received we will not destroy any Sexual Assault kits,” he said.

State guidelines are still being developed that will instruct departments on how long to maintain evidence in sexual assault cases.

In a previous interview, Pinkston said, “In the future, and in accordance with the new law that now exists, that there's a standard policy that we have with law enforcement,” he said. “That we review these… specific pieces of evidence before they ask a judge for an order destroying them."
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