Quinn v. State examines whether statute of limitations can be extended after DNA analysis

In 1988, a child molestation was reported to Elkhart County law enforcement. Over the years, many leads on the case failed to pan out, but forensic samples containing spermatazoa were kept stored with the Elkhart County Sheriff. At the time, DNA testing was not available. After DNA technology became more advanced, the Elkhart County Sheriff re-opened the case for investigation and found Quinn to be a DNA match for the samples through the nationwide DNA database CODIS in 2012. Quinn’s DNA had been entered into CODIS in 2001 and 2003 via buccal swabs.

Quinn entered a guilty plea for a rape charge, but he had a bench trial for two other Class B felonies charges and was convicted of both. Quinn contests the two latter convictions based on the statute of limitations. The Indiana Code section 35–41–4–2 (2009) states, “A prosecution for a Class B or Class C felony that would otherwise be barred under this section may be commenced within one (1) year after the earlier of the date on which the state: (1) first discovers evidence sufficient to charge the offender with the offense through DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis; or (2) could have discovered evidence sufficient to charge the offender with the offense through DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis by the exercise of due diligence.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals denied Quinn’s claim that the statute was an impermissible ex post facto rule. “[T]he DNA extension to the statute of limitations does not impose a punishment for an act that was not punishable at the time, nor does it impose an additional punishment to that which was then prescribed. The DNA extension does not violate federal or state constitutional prohibitions of ex post facto laws.”

The court also denied Quinn’s claim that the government failed to exercise due diligence in the investigation of his case. “The key inquiry for due diligence is whether the State’s efforts to identify Quinn through DNA testing were reasonable under the circumstances. Here, although the State possessed sub-items containing Quinn’s DNA in 1988, the sub-items’ continued existence was a matter of happenstance because the State’s Lab had no policy requiring retention of the sub-items when they were created. Retention of sub-items was left to the discretion of individual analysts, and many chose not to keep sub-items.”

“The evidence also demonstrates that the Lab does not have the resources to proactively examine every sub-item in its vault to see if a DNA profile can be created. There are thousands of sub-items in the Lab’s vault, and given staffing realities, Lab personnel act in response to requests from law enforcement agencies.”
“In addition, the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department does not have the resources to leave every case open and routinely investigate them all. Instead, the Department places cases on inactive status once all avenues of investigation have been exhausted, subject to reactivating them when new information comes in. Although the Department’s employees occasionally look at inactive cases, there is no formal policy or set schedule for such reexaminations.”
“The possibility that different policies or investigation techniques could have led to Quinn’s identification years earlier does not compel a conclusion that the State acted unreasonably here.”
Quinn v. State, 2015 WL 5881890 (2015).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s