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Which Golden State Killer crimes will go to trial?

Although there is no statute of limitations on murder, a 10 year statute of limitations on filing rape charges insures dozens of rapes blamed on the East Area Rapist will never go to trial. California eliminated the deadline for filing rape charges starting Jan. 1, 2017, but the law is not retroactive.

The repercussions of violent and sadistic acts like those of the Golden State Killer spread like ripples in a pond, affecting victims, those around them, the communities they live in and society at large.

When Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested Tuesday in connection with the 1978 slayings of Katie and Brian Maggiore, dozens of survivors of his crimes, their family and friends finally saw the possibility of getting justice for crimes attributed to the Golden State Killer (also known as the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and other names).

However, many might have to content themselves with vicarious justice, as the rape cases cannot be prosecuted. Although there is no statute of limitations on murder, the deadline to file criminal charges in rape cases would have expired years ago. California law eliminated the statute of limitations for rape charges last year, that only applies to crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2017.

With the age of DeAngelo, 72, all it would take is one solid murder conviction to insure he is put away for life, although getting one or two more for insurance in case the first is overturned on appeal might be considered wise, said McGeorge Law School professor Mike Vitiello. The conviction doesn’t even have to be out of Sacramento County, since the killer was active in several counties.

Although the Sacramento District Attorney’s case can't try every case, victims in those cases could have the opportunity to testify if a "pattern of criminality" is established, Vitiello said.

Some victims might be relieved to not have to go through a trial that would bring up bad memories from the past – but “some of them, I imagine, would like to testify – to satisfy a need to face their tormentor,” he said.

An email to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office asking how prosecutors would decide which cases would be tried wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.

A previous version of this story incorrectly said the removal of the statute of limitations would apply to rapes committed before 2017.