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Court: DNA samples can be used to bring indictments even when the person linked to them is unknown

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld the rape indictment of a Dorchester man initially identified only as "John Doe" - and as a DNA sequence.

The ruling means Jerry Dixon can be brought to trial for two 1991 rapes for which another man spent more than 12 years in prison.

Dixon's attorneys argued the case against him should be dismissed because his name was not added to the indictment until after the statute of limitations had passed. In its ruling, however, the state's highest court said a person's DNA signature is as fundamental a part of a person as his name and that the original 2006 "John Doe" indictment by a Suffolk County grand jury, which mentioned only his DNA, was valid because it was filed before the statute of limitations had run out:

Where a general John Doe indictment, bereft of any particularity, must fail as generally anonymous, the converse is true of a DNA indictment: it prevails as precisely eponymous. A properly generated DNA profile is a string of code that exclusively identifies a person's hereditary composition with near infallibility. ... Probably more than proper names or physical characteristics, DNA profiles unassailably fulfil the constitutional requirement that an indictment provide "words of description which have particular reference to the person whom the Commonwealth seeks to convict."

In 2004, Boston Police and the Suffolk County District Attorney's office began submitting DNA samples from unsolved sexual assaults into a national DNA registry in the hopes of finding matches. In 2006, prosecutors got a grand jury to indict "John Doe" for the two rapes. In 2007, Dixon submitted a DNA sample after he was convicted of some relatively minor offenses; his DNA matched samples from the two rapes and in 2008 the indictment was amended to add his name.

DNA testing helped exonerated Anthony Powell, who had been convicted of the rapes in 1992.

The DA's office says Dixon forced a woman waiting for a bus in Roxbury into a nearby wooded area at knifepoint, where he raped and robbed her and that he did the same to a woman who stopped to ask him directions in Jamaica Plain. His next scheduled court date is Dec. 22.

Complete ruling.

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Comments

another wrong conviction of an innocent man by the Boston police,
and the District Attorneys office. 12 years of his life paying for something he didnt do. how do they get away with this.

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had agreed to provide a sample of his DNA when he was originally charged with the crime he claimed he didn't commit, perhaps he wouldn't have been convicted in the first place.

But now he's probably going to go ahead and demand a huge wad of cash from the taxpayers for wrongful imprisonment because some idiot defense attorney convinced him it wouldn't be in his best interest to provide the sample in the first place.

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I'm not sure DNA sampling was available in 1991, but even if it were, it didn't become valid in Massachusetts courts until roughly a decade later.

Also, as you may be aware, there are two sides to every trial - he also wouldn't have spent more than 12 years in prison if he hadn't been charged in the first place, never mind what his lawyer did or didn't do.

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I've seen people confess to things they didn't do or simply not answer questions which may have helped them if they just answered them. There have also been cops who have done illegal interogations as well.

I'll always remember a case where I went to years ago. This was where an alarm at a drugstore late at night. When officers showed up, the door had been broken open and there was a man inside eating candy and stuffing more candy in his pockets. He was arrested and charged with the breaking and entering and nighttime larceny offenses. He didn't talk about why he was there, and didn't have any good answers as to why he was there. He had the candy in his pocket, and was still eating the candy in front of officers when they showed up. Later though, everyone found out that someone else was caught on tape breaking into the store and trying to get the safe in the back. When the initial burglar realized the alarm was set and police were coming, he left. Then the other guy was just walking by on the street, saw the open door and decided to go in and eat some candy. I remember the second guy being under the influence of somthing though, and not all there in the head.

If there wasn't a tape of the original guy, I would suspect 99.9% of average Americans would have little doubt that the second guy actually comitted the whole crime and would have convicted him.

I have no idea if that happened in this original rape case, but without DNA, all you have to go on is the victims word and other investigative findings (interviews, etc).

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... on eyewitness testimony, and there was a question about whether the police pressured the victim to identify powell. upon his release, he settled with the city of boston for $3.8 million dollars, due to their gross mishandling of the case in a variety of areas.

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