State of Montana v. Ronald Dwight Tipton: On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana

34 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2018 Last revised: 28 Mar 2019

See all articles by Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton

Cardozo Law School

Paul G. Cassell

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Leslie C. Griffin

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

Montana’s pending certiorari petition in Montana v. Tipton provides the Supreme Court with an opportunity to review the important issue of when States are permitted to revive criminal cases based on newly discovered DNA evidence.

Until recently, many states have had child sex abuse statutes of limitation that have made it difficult for prosecution to occur. In Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607 (2003), the Supreme Court addressed California’s attempt to address the injustice by reviving expired criminal statutes of limitations in all cases of child sex abuse. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the California law violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. For a narrow majority of the Court, the blanket revival of criminal claims went too far.

Since Stogner, the science of DNA evidence in sex assault cases has become increasingly sophisticated and reliable and states have begun to enact laws to permit prosecution of child rape where conclusive DNA evidence becomes available. This deeply reliable evidence justifies the reopening of a child sexual abuse case even when the statute of limitations previously expired, because it does not raise the risk of unfairness to the perpetrator. It is also necessary to prevent further abuse by the now-identified perpetrator.

In this case, eight-year-old L.T. was raped in her home in the middle of the night. Evidence was
gathered immediately. The wrong man served a decade in prison due to a false conviction. It is now possible, due to a later-discovered DNA match with the actual perpetrator, to hold the right man accountable. This case is a proper vehicle for the Supreme Court to consider the appropriate interpretation and limits of Stogner v. California. By permitting prosecution of child abuse perpetrators, this Court would not only be providing particular victims access to much-needed justice but would also be aiding in the incarceration of dangerous sexual predators before they could abuse more children. Nothing in the Constitution forbids these laudable conclusions.

Keywords: Statues of Limitations, DNA Evidence, Child Sex Abuse, Ex Post Facto Clause

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Marci A. and Cassell, Paul G. and Griffin, Leslie C., State of Montana v. Ronald Dwight Tipton: On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Montana (2018). University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 294. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3283938 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3283938

Marci A. Hamilton

Cardozo Law School ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-790-0215 (Phone)
212-790-0205 (Fax)

Paul G. Cassell (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States
801-585-5202 (Phone)
801-581-6897 (Fax)

Leslie C. Griffin

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

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