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'John Doe' warrant helps 1997 rape case
BYLINE: Lauren Foreman

Jackson, TN

2011-08-26_John Doe warrant helps 1997 rape case_01
A Chicago native has been convicted of raping a Jackson woman in a 1997 case that took authorities 13 years to put together using DNA analysis and a creative strategy for prosecutors.

Last month, Madison County Judge Don Allen sentenced Joseph Davison to 24 years in prison for the crime. Allen required that Davison serve 85 percent of the sentence, according to a news release from Jackson Police Chief Gill Kendrick.

Jackson police have called the rape conviction an unprecedented cross-state case in which they charged a DNA profile of an unknown rape suspect to get things moving before the statute of limitations permanently closed the case.

"At the time the assault occurred in 1997, DNA profiling was still an up and coming science here," Kendrick stated in the news release. The 1997 case was the first of its kind in Madison County.

On June 27, 1997, an intruder who had quietly entered a Jackson woman's Arlington Avenue home "threatened her, covered her face with pillows and raped her," according to the news release.

Jackson officials could not find the man but entered DNA gathered from the crime scene into an index system that did not come up with a match until 2010.

"By initiating a prosecution against the principal's genetic identity (even though we did not know his name at the time), we stopped the statute of limitations from running out, " Kendrick said in the release.

Workers at a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab in Nashville notified the Jackson Police Department of a match with Joseph Davison in August 2010.

Davison had left Jackson for Chicago in 2006 after being convicted of aggravated burglary and attempted rape charges, charges that occurred before a 1998 Tennessee law requiring convicted felons to provide DNA samples.

The Chicago Police Department arrested Davison on Nov. 26, 2010. And a change in Illinois law had strengthened that state's authority to collect samples from certain offenders.

"DNA has changed the whole outlook on cases like this," Jackson Police Capt. Mike Holt said. "Had we not done something, we wouldn't have been able to prosecute."

Since the 1997 case, Jackson police have issued about four of the 'John Doe' warrants a year.

"And they are not all sexual assault cases," Holt said. He said some warrants concern burglaries.

Holt said he hoped local implementation of "John Doe warrants" would set a precedent for other cities and inspire legislative changes regarding statutes of limitation and DNA evidence.

"I think it reaffirms the importance to us in law enforcement that even when we don't know who the suspect is, we have to do everything right to keep those cases viable," Holt said. "In hopes that there will be justice some day."

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