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Tennessee lawmakers trying to change statute of limitations

By Laura Halm
Published On: Apr 04 2013 05:04:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 04 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

Catching criminals and solving cases can be challenging when time is working against you. But Tennessee lawmakers are trying to stretch the deadline by changing the statute of limitation.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. -

Catching criminals and solving cases can be challenging when time is working against you. But Tennessee lawmakers are trying to stretch the deadline by changing the statute of limitation.

We caught up with local detectives and prosecutors to learn more. Officials say in some cases it doesn't matter how much evidence you gather or if a suspect confesses years after the crime, if too much time has passed a criminal could walk away without charges.

When it comes to cold cases, time seems to be the biggest challenge investigators face when trying to catch their suspect.

"If somebody comes up 10 to 15 years down the road and actually confesses to the crime and we can come up with the evidence, if the statute of limitations ran then we can't proceed with the prosecution," said Lieutenant Bobby Russell with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

But lawmakers in Tennessee are essentially trying to stop the clock. Proposed legislation will stop the statute of limitations, with one measure including when a suspect's DNA is known.

We learned this change will essentially give investigators more time. "The Hudson case is an unsolved case, we don't have suspects, we don't have leads or clues. But we do have some DNA, if something comes up, somebody commits a crime and we're able to connect that DNA to them 20-years later," added Lieutenant Russell.

Changing time limits can also be a help in the courtroom. "If we have that law that gives us more time we can take that person to trial and they can be held accountable," said Julie Canter, Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney.

Canter says changes in the statute of limitations will be beneficial in cases involving child sex crimes.

One example is the conviction of Sullivan County priest, William Casey, convicted of abusing a boy while serving at St. Dominic's Catholic Church. "At the time the offense occurred we were able to go forward and Casey was convicted of those crimes; however, there were other instances that were time-barred by the statute of limitations," added Canter.

We learned this measure was approved by the Senate on Monday, it's now waiting for a vote in the House of Representatives next week.