A man was convicted yesterday of a New York rape 32 years after the crime, in a case that showed the power of DNA testing to identify elusive criminals, reports the New York Times. Fletcher Worrell’s 1974 trial for the rape ended in a hung jury after his defense lawyer suggested that the victim, Kathleen Ham, was a prostitute and tried to cast doubt on whether she had been violently assaulted. Worrell was arrested last year after trying to buy a gun in Georgia. Worrell faces 8 to 25 years in prison on each count. Authorities say he has been linked by DNA evidence to at least 21 other sexual assaults in Maryland and New Jersey.
Worrell defender Michael F. Rubin argued that the DNA analysis done by the chief medical examiner’s office was incomplete. The jurors were not convinced. The verdict, and the role of DNA, prompted Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau to propose a change in state law to eliminate the statute of limitations for violent sexual assault and to elevate those crimes to the highest level of felony, Class A.