DNA from Ronald Greenland, an illegal immigrant charged with the attempted murder of a police officer in New York City, matches evidence from multiple rapes. The rapes occurred throughout the 1990’s and no one is exactly sure when Greenland’s DNA was collected. It may have sat in a pile of backlogged DNA evidence for years before it was tested in 2015.
An anonymous source told the New York Post that prosecutors can’t file rape charges because an old statute of limitations law won’t allow it.
I’m calling bunk.
I thought New York didn’t have a statute of limitation on rape prosecutions?!
It’s true. New York Criminal Procedure Law section 30.10 allows prosecution of a class A felony or first degree rape at any time. But this hasn’t always been the law.
Prior to amendment 2005 N.Y.S.N. 8441 effective June 23 2006, prosecutions for rape were subject to a 5-year statute of limitations. This means that charges can never be filed against an alleged rapist if they aren’t filed within 5 years of the crime being reported.
The new statute of limitations only applies to crimes reported after the amendment. Greenland’s DNA matches multiple rapes reported in the 1990’s. In some cases that may be a full decade before the amendment was passed.
When you break it down like that, it’s easy to see that, yeah, maybe New York prosecutors can’t bring charges. But I don’t believe it is actually so simple.
New York Case Law May Allow Greenland’s Rape Prosecution
GCE talked about the binding power of case law in this article over the weekend. In short, lower courts have to follow the law as interpreted by the higher courts above them. Think of the court system as a pyramid. The highest court sits at the top, an appellate court sits in the middle, and local courts sit at the bottom.
In People v. Karimzada, the State of New York brought charges against the defendant more than 10 years after the reported sexual assault. The court effectively decided that the statute of limitations did not start until the defendant’s DNA was matched to a rape kit.
This is huge!
The deciding court in Karimzada is an appeals court so it may not be binding on whichever court Greenland’s prosecution would be held in. But, the State could use this case as persuasive authority. Using persuasive authority is the equivalent of telling your mom that everyone else is doing it. The only difference is, sometimes it works in court.
I’m not saying that a rape conviction is a slam dunk in this case. I’m not even saying that the State would for sure win if Greenland challenged the timeliness of the prosecutions. I do believe, though, that prosecutors have a fighting chance.
Greenland’s DNA was not processed and matched until 2015. Even the worst mathematician can see that 2015 to 2017 is not more than five years. The State can use Karimzada to argue that the statute of limitations hasn’t expired.
It feels a bit disingenuous to hear that nothing can be done.
It seems more likely that prosecutors do not want to defend the absurd amount of time it took to process Greenland’s DNA. The victims are the real losers in this case. Maybe the State should remember that…