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Archive for Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cold case awaits old DNA evidence test results

February 12, 2012

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Joe Jones sits in his small sparse apartment just blocks from the capital building in Topeka. Jones is trying to get his life together these days after spending nearly eight years in prison for rape but was eventually cleared through DNA evidence.

Joe Jones sits in his small sparse apartment just blocks from the capital building in Topeka. Jones is trying to get his life together these days after spending nearly eight years in prison for rape but was eventually cleared through DNA evidence.

Two people whose lives were severely set off course by a sexual assault anxiously wait to see whether DNA evidence can finally provide answers.

One of those people, a woman who was raped in Topeka in 1985, wants to know who her assailant was and wants him punished. The other person, Topeka resident Joe Jones, who spent seven years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the rape, wants to see justice done two decades after his exoneration.

“I’m tired of everybody dragging their feet,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. Both she and Jones have been in contact with the Topeka Cold Case Unit, which reopened the case after a Lawrence Journal-World investigation identified potentially testable DNA evidence stored in a cooler in California.

Detective Adam Arensdorf of the Topeka Cold Case Unit said the Kansas Bureau of Investigation also has evidence from the case stored in its archives. Agents are working on testing the DNA, he said, but he wasn’t able to give a timetable for when results would be available.

Carey Ziegler, a forensic scientist with the KBI, explained how old evidence is stored and discussed some of the issues that determine whether old evidence can yield useful results.

Though Ziegler was not able to comment on particular cases, she said that old evidence is stored in a freezer at KBI. That evidence could contain items with blood or semen on them, or could consist of fluid extracts. After decades have passed, it’s never a given that such evidence will provide enough DNA for testing, as the amount and age of the evidence play a factor, she said.

In old cases, the process takes longer, Ziegler said, as scientists must first determine the best testing method for a sample.

“Each case has its own timeline,” she said.

Arensdorf said this case was further complicated by chain of custody issues, as investigators needed to track down documents as to how and when some of the evidence was sent to Forensic Science Associates, which tested some of the evidence in 1992. Ed Blake, the scientist who originally tested the DNA and testified at Jones’ exoneration hearing in 1992, said evidence is typically returned after testing. KBI also keeps a portion of the material and stores it at its facility. If the evidence stored at KBI can’t produce results, Arensdorf said the KBI would pursue obtaining the evidence stored at Forensic Science Associates.

If the evidence at KBI can produce a DNA profile, it will then be entered in the national DNA database with the hope that the profile would match one of the 10 million offender profiles in the system.

Though the five-year statute of limitations for prosecution of rape cases in Kansas has long passed in this case, Kansas law allows for prosecution of rape cases for up to one year after DNA evidence has identified a suspect.

Comments

KS 2 years, 9 months ago

"Though the five-year statute of limitations for prosecution of rape cases in Kansas has long passed in this case, Kansas law allows for prosecution of rape cases for up to one year after DNA evidence has identified a suspect."

Huh?

Hope they find the guy!

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

The statute of limitations basically gets reset, or is put on hold, if a cold hit in the DNA identifies a suspect. There's been a couple of local cases that have been helped by this.

ebyrdstarr 2 years, 9 months ago

I think it's more complicated than that. A statute of limitations once expired is dead and can't be revived. As I recall from those other cases, those defendants who were eventually found had been out of the state, which tolls the statute of limitations. If this search hits on someone who has been in Kansas the whole time (or at least the fist 5+ years), I'm not convinced the state would be able to pursue charges.

Clickker 2 years, 9 months ago

Jury trials actually scare the He$$ out of me. I was on a jury once, where we deliberated for 3 days on a trial that could send a guy to the joint...we basically couldnt agree and then it got to be friday afternoon....no one wanted to be sequestered over the weekend, and since a few of the holdout jurors apparently had plans for the weekend, they gave in and agreed to convict. The guy was guilty anyways, but the way that whole process went down was scary.

matahari 2 years, 9 months ago

Yea, that's one of the downside that comes along the the registering to vote.....They will call you for jury duty. I got called several times, and a simple phone call was all it took for them to not call me in (not saying what I told them, but it worked)

My mother was once called in for jury duty, and she was the only member the opt out, and she was absolutly correct in her stance. There was no solid evidence provided to convict the kid.

It sorta reminds me of the old adage"give someone a little but of power and ..."

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