Court - Guilty pleas nullify request for DNA testing

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- A man's 1992 guilty pleas to rape and kidnapping negated his right to seek DNA testing that he now claims would prove his innocence, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

A unanimous panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District upheld Cape Girardeau County Circuit Court Judge William L. Syler's rejection of Rubin Weeks' request for DNA testing.

"By admitting that he did everything for which he was charged, his identity as the perpetrator -- and every other issue -- was conceded," Judge Glenn A. Norton wrote for the appellate panel. "Likewise, his plea makes it difficult, if not impossible, for Weeks to demonstrate a reasonable probability that he would not have been convicted."

During his 1992 plea hearing, Rubin Weeks admitted to using a butcher knife to force his victim, with whom he was not acquainted, into his car in October 1991. After driving to a barn, he said he forced sexual acts upon the victim and left her bound with duct tape.

Following a description of his crimes by the prosecution, Weeks responded that he "did what they said I did," according to court records.

In exchange for his guilty pleas, lesser charges were dropped and he was sentenced to concurrent prison sentences of 30 years and life.

Acting as his own attorney, Weeks last year filed a motion with the circuit court requesting DNA testing of physical evidence collected from the victim. Weeks said such technology was not available at the time of his guilty plea.

Case still vivid

However, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle disputed that contention.

"Some cases stick in a prosecutor's mind vividly, even decades later," Swingle said. "Rubin Weeks' case is one of those for me."

Swingle said he had sought a warrant for a blood sample from Weeks in order to do DNA testing and provide another piece of evidence at trial to go along with the victim's identification of her attacker. However, Weeks pleaded guilty before the testing took place.

The appeals court further ruled that since Weeks was aware the evidence was available for testing in 1992, there would be no cause to order testing now even if he hadn't pleaded guilty.

There are instances where post-conviction DNA testing is appropriate to determining guilt or innocence, Swingle said, but this isn't one of them.

"This would have been a real waste of taxpayers' money," Swingle said.

Weeks, 41, is incarcerated at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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