Saturday, February 14, 2009

National Effort To Eliminate Statute Of Limitations

From ABC News:

"I was raped when I was 12 years old," said a Texas woman who asked that her name not be used. "The man broke into our house, and beat me and raped me at knifepoint while my parents slept in the room next to mine." So ended her childhood, and 25 years later, she still wrestles with the trauma of that horrific night.

Police investigated but the case went cold, until 2001 when her attacker was finally identified, thanks to DNA evidence. But he couldn't be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. [...]

"And all these years, it's like, wonder, wonder, wonder. Is he in prison? Is he alive? Is he dead?" the victim said. "And really, truly after about 25 years, you begin to feel like you don't matter. Like you have been forgotten about."

But the 1983 case was not forgotten. While investigating another crime in 2001, a cold case detective discovered that the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences had been saving rape kits since 1981 -- preserved evidence could be examined with modern-day technology.

The DNA evidence in her case was analyzed and matched to Dewayne Douglas Willis, but he couldn't be charged because the statute of limitations for this case expired after 5 years. This match came shortly before Willis was set to be released from prison on an unrelated conviction.

Those who are willing to see the statute of limitations be eliminated when there is DNA evidence but who are unwilling to see the statute of limitations eliminated for rapes where there was no DNA collected unfortunately contribute to a system of unequal justice.

Rapists who commit rapes against those who are least likely to get a rape kit done will eventually be free from prosecution while other rapists who may have committed fewer and less violent rapes will always face prosecution and conviction.

This would skew the prosecution of older rape cases toward stranger rapes. But stranger rapes are not automatically more traumatic than non-stranger rapes. And stranger rapists are not always a greater continuing threat than non-stranger rapists. Brutality can come from those closest to us or those who with power over their victims.

Some rape victims can't get rape kits done even if they wanted to. Prisoners raped by their jailers is just one example where access to forensics exams is non-existent or severely limited.

When people defend a multi-tier statute of limitations they don't talk about these cases, they only talk about potentially fraudulent rape reports.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:56 AM   0 comments links to this post


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