Prosecutors can legally charge unknown suspects using only DNA samples as evidence, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The First District Court of Appeals upheld a decision allowing Bobby Dabney to be charged for sexually assaulting a teenager, even though prosecutors did not know the attacker's identify when they issued a warrant, identifying him only by his DNA.
Dabney's story drew national attention.why?
He was sentenced whento 120 years in prison for sexually assaulting a high school sophomore in Milwaukee in 1994.
Investigators didn't know who the assailant was for years. They took tissue samples the attacker left behind on the victim and built a DNA profile from them, but couldn't match it to anyone.
In December 2000, prosecutors issued a John Doe warrant charging an unknown person with the crime to prevent the state's six-year statute of limitations from running out. They described the rapist in the warrant through the DNA profile.
Investigators linked the DNA to Dabney in February 2002 through a sample they got from him in 1996 after he went to prison for false imprisonment and armed robbery.
Dabney appealed the sexual assault conviction, arguing that the arrest warrant and complaint weren't sufficient because they identified him only through his DNA.
But the appeals court said DNA is the best means of identification available, better even than a physical description or a name, and satisfied the requirements of an arrest warrant and a complaint.
Dabney also argued the complaint that named him was untimely and violated his due process rights because of the long delay between the assault and the actual prosecution.
The appeals court ruled that the warrant and complaint were issued three days before the state's statute of limitations ran out.
The court also said protection of the statute of limitations isn't a fundamental right. Sexual assault prosecutions are important enough to allow them to proceed in cases that begin after the statute expires if the state has an unknown offender's DNA, the court said.
Dabney didn't prove the timing of the complaint created an advantage for prosecutors, the court said.