Advanced DNA Testing Technologies Help Police Reopen Decades Old Florida Murder Case
In 1977, Debbie Clark was found beaten and shot to death in her Coral Gables apartment. Due to insufficient evidence at the time, the case remained unsolved for almost 40 years even though Clark’s boyfriend, Allen Bregman, was questioned. While early investigations did show circumstantial evidence connecting Bregman to the crime, hard evidence was lacking and the case ultimately went cold.
In recent years, however, scientific advances in the collection of physical evidence are enabling detectives to reexamine old cases. Detectives reopened the 1977 murder case in 2014 and collected new fingerprints and DNA from Bregman. In early August of this year he was arrested and charged for the murder of Clark.
There is No Time Limitation on a Prosecutor’s Ability to Charge Someone with Murder
It is hard to imagine being prosecuted for something that happened almost four decades prior. Fortunately, this is not how the law works most of the time. Generally, prosecutors only have a certain amount of time to file charges against someone for a criminal act. This is called the statute of limitations. For example, felonies in the first degree must be prosecuted within 4 years of the criminal act and lesser offenses must be prosecuted within anywhere from 1 to 3 years depending on the type of offense.
That being said, Florida law provides that prosecution for a capital felony, a life felony, or a felony resulting in death can be commenced at any time. Accordingly, one cannot escape the possibility of a murder charge just because several years have elapsed since the crime was committed.
Although new technologies are allowing detectives and prosecutors to reexamine old cases, they still have significant hurdles to jump through in convicting the person they believe committed the crime. Many times, old DNA will be compromised or contaminated. Additionally, investigators may not have utilized the appropriate methods for capturing DNA prior to understanding its value in a criminal investigation and an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able assert such arguments in your case.
Old DNA Evidence Can Also Prove Your Innocence
There are two sides to every coin and just as investigators can utilize new technologies to examine old physical evidence in order to charge you with a crime, you may also be able to use DNA evidence to exonerate yourself from a conviction. Florida law allows any person who has been tried and found guilty of a felony to petition the court to order an examination of physical evidence containing DNA collected during the time of the investigation. In some cases, even a person who has entered a guilty plea may petition the court to reexamine DNA evidence.
The method for petitioning the court his highly procedural and the court does not have to approve the petition. Obtaining an excellent Miami criminal defense attorney is paramount. Attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner has decades of experience utilizing cutting edge technologies to defend individuals charged with crimes, including murder. Additionally, our firm often handles post-conviction matters and has successfully appealed many criminal convictions. If you or a loved one has questions regarding how DNA evidence may be used against you or in your favor for a legal matter, please call us today for a free consultation.