Post details: TN: DNA profile in John Doe arrest warrant was particular for Fourth Amendment and tolled SOL

12/24/12

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TN: DNA profile in John Doe arrest warrant was particular for Fourth Amendment and tolled SOL

A woman lawyer was the target of a home invasion and aggravated attempted rape in 1994 in Nashville. She struggled with the assailant who beat her head, and she bit off a piece of skin on his finger, spitting it under the bed. He left. In 2000, a DNA profile was run on the piece of the finger, and the DHA description was included in a John Doe warrant as a specific identifier. In 2006, the grand jury indicted John Doe. In 2008, a likely fingerprint match was made off the piece of the finger with defendant who had applied for a job at the DOC. Once police had a likely candidate for a suspect, a match on a palm print was made and the police then sought a DNA sample, and that matched the defendant. He was charged, tried, and convicted. A John Doe warrant with a DNA description was sufficiently particular under the Fourth Amendment, and the statute of limitations was properly tolled. State v. Burdick, 395 S.W.3d 120 (Tenn. 2012), aff’g State v. Burdick, 2011 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 886 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 2, 2011):

Several jurisdictions have addressed the issue since [Wisconsin] in Dabney [State v. Dabney, 2003 WI App 108, 264 Wis. 2d 843, 663 N.W.2d 366 (2003)], and most have concluded that inclusion or reference to a unique DNA profile in a "John Doe" arrest warrant or indictment sufficiently describes a person to satisfy statutory requirements. In State v. Danley, the Ohio Court of Common Pleas cited Dabney with approval and held that an affidavit of complaint and arrest warrant against "John Doe," which identified the suspect by gender and a DNA profile, was sufficient to commence the criminal action, thereby tolling the statute of limitations. 2006 Ohio 3585, 853 N.E.2d 1224, 1226-28 (Ohio Ct. Com. Pl. 2006). More recently, in People v. Robinson, the California Supreme Court ruled that an arrest warrant that described the suspect only as "John Doe, unknown male" with a unique 13-loci DNA profile adequately identified the defendant under both the Fourth Amendment and California's statutory scheme, thus timely commencing the prosecution. 47 Cal. 4th 1104, 104 Cal. Rptr. 3d 727, 224 P.3d 55, 75-76 (Cal. 2010). Finally, in Dixon, the Massachusetts Supreme Court observed that a DNA profile is more than a description; "it is, metaphorically, an indelible 'bar code' that labels an individual's identity with nearly irrefutable precision." 938 N.E.2d at 885 (citing NRC at 2, 7, 9). Consequently, that court held that a "John Doe" indictment incorporating the suspect's unique DNA profile and additional physical description "unassailably fulfil[led] the constitutional requirement that an indictment provide 'words of description which have particular reference to the person whom the Commonwealth seeks to convict,'" sufficiently identified the defendant, and tolled the statute of limitations. Id. at 885-86.

. . .

We are persuaded that a DNA profile exclusively identifies an accused with nearly irrefutable precision and, as a general rule, satisfies the particularity requirements of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. In our view, the "John Doe" designation in the warrant at issue, coupled with the detailed DNA profile of the assailant, identified the Defendant with "reasonable certainty," as is required by both constitution and statute. See U.S. Const. amend. IV; Tenn. Const. art. I, § 7; Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-208; Tenn. R. Crim. P. 4(c)(1)(B). As a result, the prosecution was properly and timely commenced within the eight-year statute of limitations by the filing of the "John Doe" arrest warrant on February 2, 2000.

. . .

IV. Conclusion

A criminal prosecution is commenced if, within the statute of limitations for a particular offense, a warrant is issued identifying the defendant by gender and his or her unique DNA profile. Furthermore, a superseding indictment in the defendant's proper name provides the requisite notice of the charge. The judgment of conviction is, therefore, affirmed.

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