The Shelby County District Attorney's Office will start looking back at unsolved case, forming a Cold Case Unit that will be another addition of specialized staff for the prosecutor's office.
The unit, according to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, was spurred on by the number of cases that remain unsolved in Shelby County, specifically from the "small percentage of violent repeat offenders [who] are responsible for a large percentage of the crimes, particularly violent crimes.
"I think this unit demonstrates the seriousness of this office on prioritizing violent crime," Mulroy told The Commercial Appeal Thursday. "It also demonstrates the willingness of MPD and the DA's office to partner and further that goal [of preventing violent crime]."
Although there is not a quota yet, and the unit is in its infancy, Mulroy said he has spoke with the Memphis Police Department about starting with a few dozen cases to review. The unit will focus on homicides and violent sexual assaults, and Mulroy hopes to expand from there.
"We're going to be looking for cases where there are still things that could be done to either locate the defendant or identify the perpetrator," he said. "There are two different paths here. One is when we've identified things that will help solve the case. We don't know the identity of the perpetrator, but we can follow up on it. The other is there are some cases where we have a warrant for an identified suspect, but we weren't able to serve the warrant. Our criminal investigators here in the DA's office are very good at finding people."
Mulroy is not currently eyeing additional staff for the unit in the same way he is for the Conviction Review Unit, but grant opportunities are available for units similar to this and the addition of a full-time grant coordinator will help the office pursue those opportunities.
The unit is slated to start working as early as next week, according to Mulroy, and he believes the unit could alleviate strain placed on MPD while the police department experiences staffing shortages.
"I think the MPD cold case unit has hundreds of cold cases," Mulroy said. "They could be working on any one of them, but there are personnel issues. They'll be sending some of those files over as quickly as perhaps the end of next week and we can have [assistant district attorneys] looking at them to identify the ones that are worth prioritizing."
In a press release, the DA's office plans to review up to 200 cases each year. MPD Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis said the department is grateful for the help and is also looking forward to curbing crime.
"The Memphis Police Department supports any efforts that will assist in bringing long awaited justice to the many families that have been impacted," Davis said in a statement.
MPD would not comment further on the establishment of the unit. "This effort may be fruitful and help identify suspects who have committed egregious crimes against members of our community."
Lucas Finton is a news reporter with The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached at Lucas.Finton@commercialappeal.com and followed on Twitter @LucasFinton.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Shelby Co. District Attorney to form Cold Case Unit