Prosecutors indicting John Does through DNA

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee law enforcement officials are using DNA evidence to indict unknown suspects as a way to stop the clock on statute of limitations, but some critics say the approach needs more legal scrutiny.

“The purpose of an arrest warrant is to put the accused on notice that he’s been charged with something,” attorney, John E. Herbison told The Tennessean. “A DNA profile doesn’t do that. No one is familiar enough with his own DNA profile to know he’s the one charged when that’s the only identifying information.”

These John Doe DNA cases have been used for about a dozen years and courts have ruled in favor of the practice. But defense attorneys say more legal analysis is needed to make sure a defendant’s rights aren’t violated.

“What you’re doing is waiving the defendant’s right to a speedy trial and their right to call witnesses and to defend themselves adequately, which is impaired with the passage of time,” said defense attorney Bill Massey of Memphis, a past president of the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “It’s very difficult to defend a case that is 20 years old. Of course, they’re weighing that against the public’s and the prosecutor’s interest in catching, apprehending and punishing these individuals.”

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/dec/25/prosecutors-indicting-john-does-through-dna/

ADDED: This does nothing more than circumvent the statute of limitations. There is a very good reason we have statute of limitations, and they have withstood legal scrutiny in many countries since the days of the Roman Empire…

The main reason(s) we have statute of limitations is simple… over time, evidence can become corrupted or disappear, memories fade, crime scenes are changed or destroyed altogether, and witnesses can die and critical records of event get lost forever.

What is happening here is an attempt by prosecutors to do away with SoL’s and thereby doing away with a key legal instrument put in place to protect the rights of everyone, including and especially the accused.

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