Attorney General Fox Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Allow Prosecution of DNA-linked Suspect in Child Rape Case

Attorney General Fox Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Allow Prosecution of DNA-linked Suspect in Child Rape Case

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow his office to prosecute a suspect linked by DNA evidence to the 1987 rape of an eight-year-old child in Billings.

In July, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that, despite newly discovered DNA evidence, Ronald Dwight Tipton could not be tried for rape because of a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing new charges after the statute of limitations expired. In Montana’s brief filed today, Fox asks the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit that 2003 ruling, arguing that it should not apply in cases where perpetrators evaded identification past the statute of limitations but were later identified by DNA evidence.

“This is an example of the law catching up to science,” Fox said. “We have DNA evidence that conclusively identifies the suspect in a heinous crime, and justice demands that he be brought to trial. I have met with the victim and am pleased that she supports our efforts. A victory at the U.S. Supreme Court will not only allow us to bring justice and closure for her, but will help achieve similar results throughout the country as perpetrators are conclusively identified through breakthroughs in DNA science.”

On March 20, 1987, a man entered a Billings home and raped an eight-year-old girl three times. The suspect’s DNA evidence was preserved but not identified until 2014, when it matched Tipton’s DNA profile submitted to the State Crime Laboratory in a Meagher County drug possession case. Prosecutors then charged Tipton for the 1987 rapes, but the Montana Supreme Court dismissed the charges in July of this year after it found that U.S. Supreme Court precedent prevented prosecution.

If the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the case, oral arguments will likely be this coming spring.

Montana’s brief is available online here.

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