The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that a DNA profile may substitute for a defendant’s name to prevent the statute of limitations from running on the crime of rape. Commonwealth v. Jerry Dixon, SJC 10668, December 9, 2010.
If you rape someone in Massachusetts and leave your DNA behind, you may be prosecuted forever — regardless of how many years it takes to match your genetic profile with your identity and effectuate your arrest.
Jerry Dixon left DNA at the scene of rapes in 1991. Someone else was convicted of the crimes and served 12 years in prison. Later scientific advances in profiling demonstrated that the convict was innocent, so he was released and a grand jury “indicted” the unnamed owner of the DNA, shortly before the 15-year statute of limitations would have expired.
Dixon was in prison on another crime in 2008. His DNA was routinely collected and determined to match that of the rapist 17 years earlier.
Dixon complained on appeal that he did not have notice of his indictment before the limitations period expired. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled Dixon was not entitled to notice. And in my view this is unquestionably a proper ruling. Perpetrators of heinous crimes know who they are. They do not need notice that their DNA has been indicted just because they failed to leave their name at a crime scene.