New York City yesterday unveiled an innovative project allowing indictments against DNA profiles matching biological evidence collected from unsolved sex crimes. Under the John Doe Indictment Project, investigators and prosecutors must indict the rapist’s DNA profile before the state’s 10-year statute of limitations expires. However, once a match to an individual is made, officials have the ability to prosecute any time following, New York Times reported. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg applauded the Project, saying it will stop “rapists from profiting from the statute of limitations,” reported the Times. A $350,000 federal grant will fund the review of unsolved sex cases by one prosecutor and one investigator in each of the city’s five DA offices. The project will commence, focusing on approximately 600 cases from attacks in 1994, now nearing the statute of limitations.
Mayor Bloomberg’s criminal justice coordinator John Feinblatt told the Times, “Of course, when we were dependent on people’s memories to identify somebody, the statute of limitations made sense… We no longer live in that world. In rape cases, defendants leave their identity behind. That makes a world of difference, and what we’re saying is that practice has to catch up with science.”
Introduced last March by Rep. Mark Green (R-WI), the Debbie Smith Act of 2003 requires health officials to test rape victim DNA samples within 10 days of receipt and allocates federal funding for comprehensive training of hospital examiners working with rape victims and standardization and facilitation of DNA evidence collection and testing. Debbie Smith, for whom the bill is named, is a Virginia woman who was raped in 1989. Her collected DNA samples sat on laboratory shelves, untested for six years. Consequently, her attacker remained free until DNA evidence helped imprison him in 1995. Last month, Smith testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
In late April, President Bush signed into the law the Protect Act, including a section authorizing John Doe indictments.