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Monday, March 31, 2008

Kansas Supreme Court Rules Arrest Warrants Strikes Down DNA Based John Doe Warrants

From kansas.com: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the arrest warrants in seven rape cases -- the first in the nation to charge someone's DNA with a crime -- weren't specific enough to meet legal standards.    

The ruling means death-row inmate Douglas Belt won't be tried for the rapes. But the opinion offered hope for both sides.

   

The court didn't completely strike down the DNA-based "John Doe" warrants.

   

Those arrest warrants are now commonly used when prosecutors have someone's DNA, but can't match it with a name within the five-year statute of limitations for bringing a rape charge.

   

The state joins California, Wisconsin and Ohio, which have seen the warrants survive appeals.

   

"This is actually a good day for law enforcement," said Marc Bennett, an assistant Sedgwick County district attorney who argued the state's case before the Supreme Court.

   

No one had tried to charge someone's DNA with a crime before McPherson County Attorney Ty Kaufman filed an arrest warrant in 1991 against the nameless defendant.

   

Kaufman wanted to preserve the five-year statute of limitations for charging someone with rape. He didn't know the suspect's name, but he had a DNA sample.

   

Yet the court ruled in Belt's case that the arrest warrants were invalid because they didn't fully describe the makeup of his DNA profile.

   

"The bottom line of the ruling is that even John Doe warrants have to describe an individual in specific detail," said Rebecca Woodman, who argued Belt's case.

   

The Supreme Court ruling does not preclude prosecutors from drawing up an arrest warrant in the future based on a person's DNA. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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