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.