YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Five years after he was first charged, a judge sentenced Maurice Clark to 10 years in prison Thursday morning on a rape conviction.
This week, lawmakers in the Ohio House voted that law enforcement officials in the Buckeye State could charge suspects with rape up to 25 years after the fact, instead of 20, as the law previously allowed.
Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa thinks there should be no time limits in rape cases.
“Sorta like murders, where no matter when it happens,” Cantalamessa said. “You have DNA. We can go back, do the look back, however long it is.”
The House bill covers cases where DNA evidence is available, but Cantalamessa wonders just how many additional cases would be affected, and how many others might be left out.
In the Clark rape case, the defendant admitted having sex with his victim, so DNA was never an issue.
“You still have to look at the facts of the case, because as you see, they could still claim consent,” Cantalamessa said.
“People think of DNA as some sort of a magic potion that some how its infallible,” local defense attorney Mark Lavelle said. “It’s not. DNA deteriorates.”
Lavelle has handled rape cases and questioned what is really behind the effort in Columbus, which includes language allowing the measure to go into effect immediately if the governor signs it.
“Twenty years is a long time, clearly. We can’t remember where we were 20 years ago, or 20 days ago,” Lavelle said. “So to me it seems more political than in fact helpful to the victims of this offense.”
For now, the house bill, which was passed unanimously, goes to the senate, which approved a similar measure of its own earlier this year.