COLUMBUS – An Ohio Supreme Court case could affect the state’s initiative to clear the backlog of untested rape kits. The state is appealing a decision by the Eighth District Court of Appeals in the case of Demetrius Jones.
The appeals court had dismissed his rape and kidnapping charges because of prosecutors’ delays in the case. The Joyful Heart Foundation is backing the state’s decision to appeal.
Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy with the group, explains the ruling affects the ability to prosecute cases if additional evidence is discovered in the sweeping efforts to test Ohio’s backlog of more than 11,000 rape kits.
“If this opinion stands, it really undermines the rape-kit testing initiative that has been so successful in Ohio,” says Knecht. “It will have a huge impact on victims’ ability to seek justice in the courts.”
Jones was charged in 2012 when evidence in a rape kit linked him to a 1993 incident. Last summer, the county appeals court found Jones’ due process rights were violated by a pre-indictment delay.
The Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women joined the Joyful Heart Foundation in filing an amicus brief in support of the state’s appeal.
Knecht contends DNA evidence is a powerful tool that can bring justice for rape victims and others.
“When we allow these kits to sit untested, it means cases go unsolved, serial rapists remain undetected but innocent people also remain incarcerated, and that’s an important point,” says Knecht. “So, there are cases where we’ve found the wrong person has been serving time.”
Thousands of rape kits are sitting untested in police storage facilities across the country. Last year, the Ohio Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office received federal funds to help address Ohio’s backlog.