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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .