NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 7, 2014

Supreme Court upholds conviction in 1991 rape

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — BOSTON — The Supreme Judicial Court recently denied a convicted child rapist’s attempt to have charges against him dropped based on what he claimed was improper collection of his DNA that led to his indictment and conviction in March 2010.

Robin Abrahams, formerly of Temple Street, was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old Newburyport girl in 1991 after breaking into her bedroom on the second floor of the two-story apartment she shared with her mother, stepfather and 11-year-old brother. He was sentenced to 45 to 60 years in state prison.

The rape remained unsolved for more than 15 years until DNA evidence collected at the scene of the crime matched DNA taken from Abrahams after his arraignment for another crime. In 2005, Abrahams was arraigned on the unconnected charges of assault with intent to rape, burglary and indecent assault and battery stemming from a 2004 incident in which a 45-year-old woman claimed he broke into her Middle Street apartment and attacked her. The victim died before the case could be prosecuted.

While Abrahams remained locked up awaiting a pretrial hearing regarding the Middle Street incident, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department obtained a blood sample from him. Months later, it was determined that the blood sample matched DNA found at the 1991 rape scene.

Abrahams filed a motion to suppress the DNA results obtained from the blood sample on the grounds that the collection of his blood was not authorized by either of the two statutes governing the submission of DNA samples by certain convicted offenders. The motion was denied, and the defendant was subsequently convicted.

Following his conviction, Abrahams appealed the decision, arguing the state had no right to collect a blood sample while he was a pretrial detainee. But the state argued successfully that based on his 1988 conviction for open and gross lewdness and again in 2005 for larceny and marijuana possession, Abrahams was required to submit a blood sample to the Massachusetts State Police.

“To be sure, it was the incarceration of the defendant that brought him within the requirement ... that he submit a DNA sample. But the statute does not require that the submission occur before release from ‘incarceration.’ It uses a different word; it states that the DNA sample must be submitted before release from ‘custody.’ There can be no doubt that, regardless of whether his incarceration ended on October 29, 2005, the defendant remained in custody, and his DNA was collected prior to his release from that custody. Consequently, the judge correctly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress,” the court’s decision reads.

Abrahams also sought to overturn the convictions by claiming an error based on the use of the phrase “rape kit” during the trial. The prosecutor and a police officer each used the phrase “rape kit” once to describe the evidence collection kit that was used in this case. Following both mentions of the phrase, the defendant objected to what he considered a prejudicial reference and the judge immediately instructed the jury to disregard the usage.

The judicial court ruled that the judge’s instructions to the jury were enough to prevent a miscarriage of justice and turned down his appeal on that basis.