With the statute of limitations looming in an unsolved 1994 rape case, a Franklin County grand jury returned an indictment yesterday against the DNA profile of an unknown man.
It was the first such indictment in the county and at least the second in central Ohio. A Delaware County grand jury indicted a DNA profile in April in a 1993 rape case.
The indictment filed yesterday charges “John Doe KA 7/10/94” with rape, kidnapping and aggravated burglary. A 20-year-old woman told Columbus police that she awoke in her East Side apartment on July 9, 1994, to find a man kissing her. He then raped her.
“KA” are her initials, and 7/10/94 is the date that the evidence in the case was collected. The prosecutor’s office chose that designation because it expects to indict other John Does.
The evidence and the woman’s sexual-assault exam kit were submitted for advanced testing in 2008. A DNA profile emerged, but no match has been found in a national database.
Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the indictment was filed “to preserve our ability to prosecute this case due to a 20-year statute of limitations. When the rapist is identified, the indictment will be amended to reflect his true name.”
Courts in Montgomery and Cuyahoga counties also have indicted John Doe suspects based on DNA profiles. A Montgomery County Common Pleas judge upheld the legal tactic in the case of a man who was prosecuted for rape in 2006, three years after a criminal complaint had been filed against his DNA profile.
Karen Phipps, a Columbus defense lawyer, expressed concern about the tactic. “The statute of limitations is there for a reason,” she said. “If they want to change it, they should do it through the legislature rather than by indicting a profile.”
One reason for the statute of limitations is to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial by ensuring that the prosecution is based on relatively fresh evidence. Also, the ability to remember events accurately diminishes with time.
O’Brien said the Ohio attorney general’s office sent him a list of several DNA profiles for cases in which the statute of limitations is close to running out. His office investigated each to see whether it could find the complainant and determine whether the person was available and willing to prosecute two decades later, he said. His staff also worked with the investigating agencies to make sure that evidence had been maintained and investigators were still available.
The woman in the 1994 case knew that the statute of limitations was close to expiring and “was ecstatic that we were going to use this method to preserve the case,” O’Brien said.
One of the earliest-known indictments of a DNA profile was in 2000 in a 1994 kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old girl in Milwaukee. (Wisconsin had a six-year statute of limitations.) The man who matched the profile was found in 2001, waived his right to a jury trial and was convicted by a judge.
By John Futty - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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