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Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2012

26 years after Topeka man wrongly imprisoned for rape, DNA databank finds match to potential suspect

Joe Jones was exonerated in 1992 of a 1985 Topeka rape after DNA showed he wasn't the assailant. Two decades after his release, a DNA match has identified a suspect, though police are withholding the name until the DNA testing is confirmed.

Joe Jones was exonerated in 1992 of a 1985 Topeka rape after DNA showed he wasn't the assailant. Two decades after his release, a DNA match has identified a suspect, though police are withholding the name until the DNA testing is confirmed.

March 7, 2012

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Joe Jones was exonerated in 1992 of a 1985 Topeka rape after DNA showed he wasn't the assailant. Two decades after his release, a DNA match has identified a suspect, though police are withholding the name until the DNA testing is confirmed.

Joe Jones was exonerated in 1992 of a 1985 Topeka rape after DNA showed he wasn't the assailant. Two decades after his release, a DNA match has identified a suspect, though police are withholding the name until the DNA testing is confirmed.

The Topeka Police Cold Case Unit wasn’t sure they had any DNA evidence left in the 1985 unsolved rape of a woman in downtown Topeka.

If they had evidence, there’d be no guarantee they could get usable test results.

And if they could test it, there’d be a chance the DNA profile wouldn’t match anyone currently entered into CODIS, the national DNA databank.

But against those odds, Detective Adam Arensdorf of the Topeka police said Wednesday they’d received a hit in the DNA databank, inching closer to resolving the 27-year-old crime.

“A person has been identified,” Arensdorf said. “We’re very excited about this.”

Police must first retest the suspect’s DNA to verify the match before they’ll release the name, Arensdorf said. He estimates that could take two to six weeks.

Topeka man Joe Jones, who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and spent seven years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence, said he’s excited he may finally get some closure in the case.

“Wow,” said Jones, notified by phone Wednesday of the development.

The case has taken many winding turns over the years.

Convicted of rape in 1986 based primarily on eyewitness testimony, Jones convinced lawyers at the Kansas University Defender Project to take his case. In 1992, lawyers were able to obtain DNA testing, which excluded Jones as the rapist. At the time, Jones was just the seventh person in the country to be exonerated by DNA evidence.

Jones was featured in a Journal-World article last year, detailing the struggles and psychological pain caused by his wrongful conviction and incarceration. During that story, the Journal-World discovered that the DNA that freed Jones was sitting in a cooler in California, in the custody of the science firm that helped exonerate Jones.

That prompted the Topeka police to reopen the case. In addition to the DNA stored in California, police located further evidence in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation storage vault. It was that evidence the KBI tested, resulting in the match in the DNA databank.

The victim in the case, who now lives out of state, said she still believed Jones was her attacker when interviewed for the story last year. But the investigation has helped change her mind, she said.

The woman has been in frequent contact with Topeka police and is willing to participate in the investigation.

Arensdorf said police are now re-investigating the crime, as well as the suspect identified by the DNA, and plan to re-interview witnesses.

Comments

2 years, 9 months ago

The D.A. needs to get moving on the prosecution of this case, since this is an old one and so it will need to be done within a year.

Clipped from: http://www.theforensicnurse.com/Rape_And_Sexual_Assault_Statute_Of_Limitations_By_State.cfm

Kansas Statutes of Limitations for Sexual Assault Limitation: A prosecution for rape or aggravated criminal sodomy must be commenced within 5 years of the offense. A prosecution for any crime not governed by subsections (1) – (7) must be commenced within two years of the offense. DNA Exception: A prosecution for a sexually violent offense must be commenced within the limitation of time provided by the law pertaining to such offense or one year from the date on which the identity of the suspect is conclusively established by DNA testing, whichever is later.

ebyrdstarr 2 years, 9 months ago

It's likely the state won't be able to prosecute this individual at all. At the time of the crime, the statute of limitations for rape was 5 years. The time for prosecuting this crime, then, expired long before the DNA exception was added. Once a statute of limitations has expired, it can't be revived by a subsequent change in the law. Reviving an already expired statute of limitations would be an ex post facto violation.

Unless the original statute of limitations did not expire for some reason, most likely that the defendant was outside of the state, before the DNA exception was added to the statute of limitations, this case won't be able to be prosecuted.

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm not sure how the legal side will play out on this. I haven't been able to get a good answer on the statute of limitations issue. We had a case not too far back about Eddie Lowery who was wrongfully convicted of an '81 rape. The DNA hit in 2010, and they were able to prosecute the guy.

But prosecution isn't the only thing to consider here. If this suspect is in prison, and will eventually be up for parole, this crime might be able to be used by the Prison Review Board. Also, it could be used in a Sexually Violent Predator case.

And I suppose it'd just be nice to know the truth.

ebyrdstarr 2 years, 9 months ago

Shaun, the only reason they were able to prosecute that guy, as I understand the specific facts of the case, was that he was out of the state, which tolls the statute of limitations. I'm also not sure his defense challenged the statute of limitations issue.

The controlling case in Kansas is State v. Garcia from 2007. The only way that DNA exception will be able to apply is if the original statute of limitations never expired because the defendant was out of the state for enough time that the original 5 years never expired. If the guy turns out to have been in Kansas for at least 5 years prior to the statutory amendment, game over.

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

It matter if he was in prison? I don't think it does. I appreciate the info.

And ya, I don't remember hearing the defense challenging in the other case. I know he was out of state as well, never did hear how long though.

ebyrdstarr 2 years, 9 months ago

If he's in prison in Kansas, then the statute of limitations keeps running. The statute only specifics in or out of the state.

In the Lowery case, I vaguely recall from the MSNBC special that it seemed the other guy was out of Kansas for nearly the entire time between the crime and the DNA hit, so maybe it really wasn't an issue worth arguing over in that case.

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the clarification. It'll be interesting to see what happens....

2 years, 9 months ago

No, only a tiny bit of it actually went towards buying the cocaine.

The rest of it all went to the middlemen. It's a very profitable business to be in, and the markups are staggering.

Jeremiah Jefferson 2 years, 9 months ago

That must have been one hell of a party lmfao

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

It was a reference to a portion of the story edited out. That was the amount the state gave Jones after he was released. He spent it all in about 5 years, he said.

MichaelC 2 years, 9 months ago

Shaun,

When I logged onto the website and saw the headline, I thought that the man in the picture is the one who is the DNA match. The subtitle doesn't even make it clear that this is the man EXONERATED years ago. If it were me I would be livid. I can't imagine how upset it would make someone whose life has already been defined by being mistaken for a rapist.

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

I apologize if there was confusion. We can look at making a change.

But, considering we've spent about a year covering this and telling Joe's story, and then also discovering the DNA that will eventually find the real rapist, I don't believe we've made Joe's life more difficult. He has expressed gratitude for our work on this.

MichaelC 2 years, 9 months ago

It's apparent you guys have helped him, but as someone unfamiliar with the story I didn't realize that at all until I had read the full article. The headline and the tagline with "person identified" are misleading.

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

I think you have a valid point. We're working on a change. I think sometimes we get so into a story like this we assume everyone's caught up, but that's not always the case.

Thanks for the feedback.

amyhaakecreativ 2 years, 9 months ago

@MichaelC - I thought the SAME THING! LJWorld - who handles your overall editing? I would be FURIOUS if that photo was of me and I had been exonerated. Wow! Big blunder.

MichaelC 2 years, 9 months ago

It's too bad there isn't a 'suggest removal' link on their picture.

Alex Parker 2 years, 9 months ago

@MichaelC and @amyhaakecreativ, you have valid points that there may be some confusion related to the photo. To remedy that, we've updated the headline to reflect Mr. Jones' wrongful imprisonment. We've also added a photo to the story to make it clear that Jones is pictured. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.

Alex Parker Digital Editor

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

And sorry if I was a little touchy on this story. It's been a long road on this one...

shaunepec 2 years, 9 months ago

I imagine we'll follow up until it's resolved.

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