‘John Doe’ indictment leads to conviction in 18-year-old rape case

‘John Doe’ indictment leads to conviction in 18-year-old rape case

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A nearly 20-year-old rape case has been solved.

On Valentine's Day in 2000, a 33-year-old woman said a man climbed inside her bedroom window, put a knife to her throat, and raped her.

That Memphis woman's case was one of more than 1,200 rape kits that went untested for years.

Last Friday there was a conviction in her case, and it's due in part to a way that prosecutors can buy more time.

Years before prosecutors knew 43-year-old David Hugo Johnson's name, they knew him by his DNA profile collected from victim's untested rape kit in 2012.

Three years later in 2015, that's exactly who prosecutors indicted – the unknown man behind the DNA sample.

“When you can get that indictment and hang on to the case in the court system than it gives us many more years to search for the rapist,” said Deborah Clubb with Memphis Women’s Council.

Clubb applauds these so-called "John Doe" indictments, helping rape victims avoid the statute of limitations in their case.

In Shelby County alone, with the testing of thousands of rape kits, there have been 139 John Does indicted and 36 of those John Does have been named.

In Johnson's case, a burglary charge in Oklahoma finally led to a DNA match in the 18-year-old rape case in Memphis.

“Because as more material is loaded into the system, there's increasing opportunity for a John Doe identity,” Clubb said.

Criminal trial specialist and Johnson's attorney Claiborne Ferguson said John Doe indictments are not always fair to the defendant

“What's terrible about this case, if it had been picked up 18 years ago, he would have remembered who he was with,” Ferguson said. “He would have remembered where he was. He would have known who his alibi witnesses were.”

Ferguson argues due process was violated.

Johnson will be sentenced next month and faces 15 to 25 years in prison.

If you were involved in a sexual assault cold case, MPD is asking that you call 901-636-3438.

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