Lawmakers push to increase statute of limitations in some rape cases


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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A man confesses to raping a central Indiana woman, but he won’t serve a single day for the crime. You can thank Indiana law for that. Now the rape survivor is pushing for change, and state lawmakers are taking action.

“I would say support me. Let’s make some changes, and hopefully we can make it so they don’t have to go through what I’m going through right now,” said Jenny Wendt Ewing, when FOX59 first talked to her back in April.

Ewing vowed to change Indiana’s five-year statute of limitations in some rape cases. She is outspoken because Ewing said she was raped back in 2005 by her former teacher’s assistant while she was a student at IUPUI. Ewing didn’t report the rape, fearful that there was no DNA evidence.

“I knew I had no chance in the courts of proving it was this man,” she told FOX59 on Friday from her new home in Oregon.

But in Jaunary of 2014, Ewing said investigators called her. Her rapist confessed. Problem is, he couldn’t be prosecuted. Almost a decade had passed, too late police said to press charges. Ewing said a detective didn’t even want to hear her version of events.

“How can someone confess to a felony and walk out of a police station. It makes no sense to me. It’s completely ridiculous,” she said.

Indiana law specifies two different scenarios and two different penalty groups when referring to rape.

If someone is drugged, or if deadly force is threatened, in those cases rape is a level one felony. There is no statute of limitations. That also includes serious bodily injury of the victim. But if the aggravators do not exist, rape is a level three felony, meaning prosecutors have five years from the time the crime’s committed to prosecute.

“Reporting takes time. It’s a very traumatic issue, there are a lot of reasons why five years to get a prosecution just isn’t long enough,” said Representative Christina Hale, a Democrat who represents House District 87 in Indianapolis.

Hale is pushing a measure to increase the statute of limitations in cases like Jenny Wendt Ewing’s to ten years. Hale’s plan is not the only one.

Republican Senator Michael Crider, of Greenfield, is also backing a bill dubbed Jenny’s Law. It would move the lesser rape charge into a level two felony and also up the sentencing range to ten to thirty years, while removing any statute of limitations.

“There’s merit to all of what we’re trying to do,” said Hale, “And we’ll find that right answer.”

But both proposed bills have their critics. Criminal defense attorney Ross Thomas told FOX59 on Friday that the limitations are there for a reason. He said those who commit crimes should be behind bars, but more time makes a case hard to prove, especially if there’s a lack of physical evidence.

“In those instances where one person’s word can accuse, it is a dangerous proposition certainly to say you can bring that accusation any time you want,” Thomas said.

Indiana lawmakers recently revised the state’s criminal code, which took affect in July.

Hale said lawmakers lowered the minimum sentence for the less-severe category of rape from six years to three, and she calls that an oversight that must be fixed.

Jenny Wendt Ewing is married and lives in Oregon now, and said she will follow this as it moves through the legislature.

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