More than 1 in 4 old, previously untested "rape kits" match someone in the state DNA database, Attorney General Mike DeWine said yesterday. That's one reason DeWine said he supports Senate Bill 93, proposed legislation to eliminate a state law imposing a 20-year statute of limitations in rape and sexual-assault cases.
More than 1 in 4 old, previously untested “rape kits” match someone in the state DNA database, Attorney General Mike DeWine said yesterday.
That’s one reason DeWine said he supports Senate Bill 83, proposed legislation to eliminate a state law imposing a 20-year statute of limitations in rape and sexual-assault cases. The limit means charges cannot be filed in cases that happened 20 or more years in the past.
“I think the public policy should be that if you can prove a serious offense like rape, there shouldn’t be an arbitrary limit,” DeWine said.
In December 2011, DeWine asked law-enforcement agencies across the state to turn in for testing old evidence kits from rape and sexual-assault cases. So far, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has received 2,984 kits and tested 888. Of those tested, 242, or 27 percent, had a “hit” or a match on someone whose DNA is in the state database, the attorney general said. The database contains information on more than 505,000 offenders and arrestees.
Many of the newly tested cases are nearly 20 years old, DeWine said; 18 are 20 or older.
DeWine said he does not know details, just that a positive result in a sexual-assault case is valuable information to law enforcement. He made the request for submission of test kits after it was revealed that Cuyahoga County prosecutors had a rape kit collected in 2009 — but never submitted for testing at the time — that contained evidence linked to serial killer Anthony Sowell.
“Every case has to be looked at in regard to what a prosecutor can prove,” DeWine said. “There are safeguards built in.”
DeWine’s position on the bill puts him at odds with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, which opposes the proposal except in cases where DNA evidence exists. “Otherwise, it’s a real problem,” said John Murphy, executive director.
“One of the big problems is, it leads people to believe we can successfully prosecute these case after 20 years,” Murphy said. “I find it hard to believe that if a person is going to come forward at all, they can’t come forward in 20 years. That seems like a generous period of time.”
State Sens. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, and Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, are the prime sponsors of the legislation, which had a first hearing yesterday before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
“The heinous nature of these crimes, coupled with the low probability that an offender will be immediately brought to justice, demands that we take every step possible to ensure that these perpetrators are put behind bars if guilty,” Cafaro said.
“It is a well-known fact the impact of sexual trauma lasts a lifetime and certainly does not fade after only 20 years,” she said.
Cafaro said that in a recent case in Warren, in northeastern Ohio, several men reported being abused by their former baseball coach while they were in school. However, because more than 20 years had passed, charges could not be filed.
Turner said in an interview that her younger sister was raped.
“Thank God she’s OK, but if you can’t prosecute a rape after 20 years, that’s just not justice."