End statute of limitations on rape cases

Ohio legislators are considering a bill that would repeal the state’s 20-year statute of limitations on prosecutions for rape. That is a good idea.

State Sens. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, and Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, held a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse earlier this month calling for additional hearings on Senate Bill 83, legislation that would repeal the statute of limitations for the prosecution of rape and sexual battery cases. They were joined at the event, which also marked the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, by Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence and a survivor of sexual assault.

“In a case in my district, survivors of sexual assault discovered that they were not entitled to justice because the crimes happened too long ago,” Cafaro said. “Justice should not have an arbitrary timeline.”

Cafaro was referring to a 20-plus-year-old sex abuse scandal at Warren John F. Kennedy High School. As victims came forward the statute of limitations left the suspect, Franciscan Brother Stephen Baker, off the criminal hook. Baker committed suicide soon after the revelations.

Cafaro introduced a similar bill prior to the Kennedy abuse scandal, but that bill never passed.

Early in his term as attorney general, Mike DeWine mandated more efficiency at the state’s crime lab. He asked law enforcement agencies to check for old ”rape kits” and submit them for testing. Thousands poured in, most from large cities.

Some of the rape kits now being tested are 10 to 20 years old. Unless the statute of limitations is extended, some rapists may remain free, even if evidence to prosecute them is revealed.

Lawmakers should pass Cafaro’s and Turner’s bill to keep that from happening.