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Government & Politics

Sloppy Police Work Decades Ago Threatens Rape Cases today

Screen capture of Russell Bensing
ML Schultze

The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments today over whether a rape prosecution delayed for two decades can go forward now. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on a case raising questions about the testing of hundreds of old rape kits in Cleveland and statewide.

Back in 1993, a woman told Cleveland police Demetrius Jones raped her in his apartment and that his mother was there at the time. The woman went to the hospital where a rape kit was collected. But after a few days, a detective said he couldn’t find the woman and closed the case. Jones’ attorney Russell Bensing argued that started the problem.

“The police detective in charge of investigating this case put about as much effort into it as I do in grocery shopping every weekend. He made two efforts and it takes up a total of 28 words in his police report. He ... went to the address, knocked on the door, he called the phone number, nobody answered and he closed the file.”  

As Cleveland began testing old rape kits in 2011, Jones DNA came up a match, and in 2013 he was indicted. By then, police had lost evidence and Jones’ had mother died. He argued the delay deprived him of a key witness -- that the sex was consensual, not rape

Lower courts had dismissed the case, saying Jones’ defense had been damaged by the long delay.

But the Cuyahoga County prosecutor says it’s up to Jones to demonstrate that his mother’s testimony and other evidence would have cleared him.. He maintains the 20-year statute of limitations is critically important in rape cases.