Currently, Oklahoma law has a seven year statute of limitations for sex crimes such as rape. But changes in forensic science have made it possible to match samples with a suspect many years after that statute of limitations has passed. That's according to Senator Jonathon Nichols, R-Norman. He and Senator Billy Mickle, D-Durant, have co-authored Senate Bill 1428 which would eliminate that statute of limitations. The full Senate gave its approval to the measure today.
"The increasing use of DNA evidence in modern law enforcement speaks volumes to the way the current system operates, subsequently highlighting a significant and serious problem in the judicial process. The simple truth is that it's grossly unjust to tell a rape victim 12 years after the fact that although we may know who committed the crime, current law prevents authorities from prosecuting offenders due to statute of limitations," said Nichols.
Under SB 1428, the time limitation on crimes of rape, forcible sodomy and lewd molestation would be eliminated as long as there was DNA evidence from the victim or crime scene that had been properly preserved.
"Often a person who commits sex crimes is actually a serial rapist. By the time they have been caught, they might have committed dozens of attacks. If we have the evidence that links them to the crime, we need to be able to prosecute them, whether it has been a 10 days or 10 years. It is never too late to bring them to justice," said Mickle.
The need for the statutory change is underscored by two stories that have made headlines in Oklahoma; one a year ago and another that is still unfolding. Jeffrey Todd Pierce was exonerated for a rape out of Oklahoma County after serving 15 years behind bars. Although DNA was used to make a match to the person who actually committed the rape, it was too late to file charges.
A 1987 rape case out of Tulsa County had led to the conviction of Alvin Carsell McGee Jr., who was recently found to be innocent as a result of DNA testing. But as in the Oklahoma County case, even if a match with the rapist is made, it would be too late under current law to file charges.
In addition to receiving bipartisan support from the Senate, SB 1428 also has the backing of the District Attorneys Council.
The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.