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State performed due diligence charging man in 25-year-old attack

October 8, 2015

In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that state employees met the due diligence requirement of I.C. 35-41-4-2 regarding the statute of limitations in charging a man in 2013 for an attack on a 10-year-old girl in 1988.

Robert Quinn argued that his Class B felony charges of child molesting and criminal confinement were barred by the statute of limitations. In March 1988, E.F. was abducted from her home and raped. She was unable to identify her attacker because of a coat covering her face. Tests of evidence at that time could only exclude a suspect and there were no suspects in her case.

By luck, a lab analyst held on to some of the evidence even though the lab had no formal policy on that. The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department had destroyed any other evidence in its possession in this cold case prior to 2013. But thanks to developments in DNA testing and the Combined DNA Index System, Quinn was identified as a suspect in the case.

Officials also charged him with rape, to which he pleaded guilty, but he maintained his remaining charges should be dropped because the state failed to act with due diligence in discovering the DNA evidence that led the state to charge him with child molesting and criminal confinement. He claimed the state failed to comply with I.C. 35-41-2(b), and those charges should be dropped.

Senior Judge Betty Barteau noted in Robert E. Quinn v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1503-CR-82, that neither the appeals court nor parties involved could find any cases that define the circumstances under which the state may or may not have been said to have acted with due diligence under this statute.

Quinn claimed the delay was unreasonable because the state had the specific evidence in question since 1988 and took his DNA through buccal swabs in 2001 and 2003 in relation to other criminal cases. He believed the state should have created a DNA profile and uploaded it to CODIS years earlier.

Barteau wrote that the sheriff’s department does not have the resources to leave open every case it gets and routinely investigate them all. The lab doesn’t have the resources to look at evidence from old cases to see if a DNA profile can be created. It was because E.F. contacted Elkhart County officials years later and discovered that some of the evidence from her case was saved that testing was able to be completed.

Quinn never disputed that the state actors were diligent in performing the testing and further investigation to connect the DNA to Quinn upon learning that the evidence still existed.

“Under the facts and circumstances of this case, the State’s employees acted reasonably in the manner in which they maintained, discovered, and tested the DNA evidence that led to Quinn’s convictions, thereby establishing the due diligence requirement of Indiana Code section 35-41-4-2(b),” she wrote.
 

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