Powerful new DNA tests may solve sex crimes a generation after they happen, but thousands of New York rape victims have no hope of justice, says the New York Daily News. The problem is a loophole in state law that gives prosecutors just five years to file charges in violent sexual assaults. The limit is extended to 10 years if prosecutors can identify an alleged rapist but can’t find him. The antiquated deadline attracted new outrage two weeks ago when DNA evidence preserved for 32 years led to the conviction of rapist Clarence Williams. The city was free to prosecute Williams three decades after he raped a woman at knifepoint because he went on the lam after being charged with the crime in 1973, which meant the clock wouldn’t run out. “A defendant should never be permitted to think he’s home free because of the passage of time,” said Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. “There is no crime, other than murder, that is as devastating to its victim [as rape].”
In Manhattan, the clock has run out on 690 unsolved rape cases with preserved DNA evidence. Morgenthau is trying to keep other cases alive by indicting unknown rapists as “John Doe.” He has filed 32 such cases with DNA evidence, but their legality is unclear. He wants to add New York to a list of 22 states that have tossed out the time limits on serious sex crimes with DNA evidence.