Friday, December 07, 2007

Kansas Supreme Court And Charging John Doe DNA

The Kansas Supreme court heard an appeal that seeks to reinstate dropped rape charges against Douglas Belt who was charged as John Doe based on DNA from a string of rapes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The prosecutor filed the John Doe arrest warrant because of the state's statute of limitations.

For anyone who thinks that those charged as John Doe before the statute of limitations expire must no longer be a danger to the public, Douglas Belt was matched to the DNA in this arrest warrant because he was arrested and later convicted of beheading a woman.

He has been sentenced to death, but death sentences and life sentences are no guarantee that there won't be an appeal which throws out key evidence before a retrial. There's no guarantee that this man or others like him won't become the darling of someone intent on freeing the wrongfully convicted. Sometimes very dangerous people can seem harmless or worthy of legal forgiveness when they are in prison and intent on getting out. That means it is important for public safety reasons to prosecute them for all of their serious crimes, even the older ones.

The ruling on this appeal may impact other states as well since Kansas isn't the only state where prosecutors have issued John Doe warrants.

For me the biggest change that needs to happen is the elimination of the statute of limitations for the crime of rape. No disclaimers, conditions or other loopholes. If the prosecutors believe they have the evidence needed to convict an alleged rapist, they should be allowed to file charges. Period.

One of the reasons some people oppose the removal of the statute of limitations for rape is stigma against the accused, but there is an equal stigma attached to alleged rape victims since they are quickly branded as liars if the case doesn't strike the public as a slam dunk.

Update: The Kansas Supreme Court has made their ruling on this case and the John Doe warrants in this case were ruled as not being specific enough, but the ruling still allows some John Doe indictments under Kansas law.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:06 AM   0 comments links to this post

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