New York City yesterday unveiled an innovative project allowing indictments against DNA profiles matching biological evidence collected from unsolved sex crimes. Under the John Doe Indictment Project, investigators and prosecutors must indict the rapist's DNA profile before the state's 10-year statute of limitations expires. However, once a match to an individual is made, officials have the ability to prosecute any time following, New York Times reported. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg applauded the Project, saying it will stop "rapists from profiting from the statute of limitations," reported the Times. A $350,000 federal grant will fund the review of unsolved sex cases by one prosecutor and one investigator in each of the city's five DA offices. The project will commence, focusing on approximately 600 cases from attacks in 1994, now nearing the statute of limitations.
Mayor Bloomberg's criminal justice coordinator John Feinblatt told the Times, "Of course, when we were dependent on people's memories to identify somebody, the statute of limitations made sense... We no longer live in that world. In rape cases, defendants leave their identity behind. That makes a world of difference, and what we're saying is that practice has to catch up with science."
Introduced last March by Rep. Mark Green (R-WI), the Debbie Smith Act of 2003 requires health officials to test rape victim DNA samples within 10 days of receipt and allocates federal funding for comprehensive training of hospital examiners working with rape victims and standardization and facilitation of DNA evidence collection and testing. Debbie Smith, for whom the bill is named, is a Virginia woman who was raped in 1989. Her collected DNA samples sat on laboratory shelves, untested for six years. Consequently, her attacker remained free until DNA evidence helped imprison him in 1995. Last month, Smith testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
In late April, President Bush signed into the law the Protect Act, including a section authorizing John Doe indictments.
10/31/2014 Federal Judge Exempts Another Catholic University from Birth Control Coverage - A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Ave Maria University, a Catholic university in Florida, does not have to comply with federal rules meant to ensure that covered employees can exercise their right to obtain birth control at no cost.
The Affordable Care Act requires all new health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives - such as the pill, emergency contraceptives, and IUDs - without charging co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance. . . .
10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
SisterReach has been educating voters about the particularly dangerous impact of Amendment 1 on women of color. . . .
10/30/2014 Medication Abortion Access Threatened by Oklahoma Court Ruling - An Oklahoma state district court judge has refused to block a state law restricting medication abortion, clearing the way for the law to go into affect on November 1.
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .