As technological advancements increase the probative value of DNA evidence (by revealing matches between suspects and evidence that could not be made with the use of older technology), cold case prosecutions will likely increase. At the same time, while DNA evidence can often lead to the identification of a guilty suspect, the prosecution of that suspect may be challenging, if not impossible. Some of these crimes were committed before DNA was used—or even considered—as an investigative tool. Oftentimes, rules governing the admissibility of evidence in such cases were drafted by individuals who likely (and quite reasonably) never contemplated the possibility of a case being prosecuted more than forty years after the crime was committed. For these reasons, practical and legal issues that rarely arise in typical investigations and prosecutions are far more likely to arise in cold cases.

The present article examines such issues, with a focus on a cold case involving a suspected serial sex offender. It begins with a description of the crimes connected to the defendant and the initial investigations into those crimes. It then describes the cold case investigation and prosecution. Finally, the article examines both practical and legal issues that arose in the context of this prosecution and that should be increasingly anticipated as cases age; these issues relate to (among other things) ex post facto laws, hearsay and the Confrontation Clause, the admissibility of evidence of the defendant’s uncharged bad acts, biological evidence, the scope of search warrants, and anticipated defenses.

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