Juries, Courts Struggle With Rape Cases Based On Decades-Old Evidence


In 2013, a dozen jurors in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County voted to convict two men of raping a teenage Job Corps trainee in a park bathroom 20 years earlier, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Sifting through the evidence, or the lack of it, in the decades-old case left them grappling with an unanswered question: Why had Cleveland police given up on such a heinous case after a few days, without interviewing a single suspect or witness? “The general feeling on our jury was that we couldn’t believe the Cleveland police just dropped it, they botched it,” said Sara Ziemnik, a high school history teacher who was on the jury.

With more than 9,200 rape kits submitted for testing statewide, questions about the adequacy of past police investigations are likely to come up again and again, not only for jurors, but also for judges being asked to decide whether the prosecutions and convictions are are fair. An appeals court recently reversed the convictions. In each appeal, attorneys raised distinct technical legal issues. The two panels of judges appeared to struggle with the same issues that Ziemnik and fellow jurors did.

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