Over the last several decades, the accelerated development of DNA testing and other forensic technologies has resulted in Florida prosecutors pursuing charges for many formerly “cold cases.” The statute of limitations in Florida for sex crimes can be extended indefinitely under certain circumstances. As a result of these laws, charges may be brought against alleged sexual offenders years or even decades after the offenses occurred. The Florida Court of Appeal recently affirmed the conviction of a man who was arrested in 2009 for a murder and sexual assault that he allegedly committed in 1988.
The victim from the recently decided case was found dead in a Florida field in 1988. She appeared to have been sexually assaulted before she died. Investigators found a suspect’s fingerprints at the scene of the crime, as well as biological evidence under the victim’s fingernails. Although evidence was collected after the 1988 murders, no suspect was identified, and the case went cold. In 2009, detectives investigating the cold case ran the fingerprints and DNA evidence from the 1988 crime scene through updated databases and found that the defendant’s DNA and fingerprints matched the evidence from the crime scene.
The defendant was arrested and charged with murder and sexual assault. The murder charges were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired; however, Florida law extends the statute of limitations for sexual assault charges resulting in a death indefinitely, and the defendant was ultimately convicted of the sexual assault charge and sentenced to life behind bars. The DNA and fingerprint evidence were the only pieces of physical evidence offered against the defendant at trial.
The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the existence of fingerprints and DNA on the victim was legally insufficient evidence to support a conviction on its own. The defendant maintained that his DNA and fingerprints could have been left at the scene based on prior interaction with the victim during a drug transaction. The appellate court evaluated the defendant’s arguments under relevant Florida law and affirmed his conviction. The court noted that while DNA evidence alone may be insufficient to support such a conviction, the existence of fingerprints and other circumstantial evidence as well justified the conviction when taken all together. Based on the recent high-court decision, the defendant must serve his sentence in full.
Have You Been Charged with a Florida Sex Crime?
Sex crimes are some of the most high-profile cases in Florida, and prosecutors covet successful convictions for such crimes, as they can greatly benefit a prosecutor’s career. When allegations of a serious sex crime are taken to a jury, it can be difficult for members of the public to remain impartial in the face of such allegations. Because of these factors, sex crime defendants face an uphill battle when they are charged, even if the evidence against them is less than compelling. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Florida or our Federal Courts, retaining an experienced and dedicated Florida criminal defense attorney can make all the difference in your case. The qualified criminal defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law firm are experienced in defending Floridians accused of sex crimes, and we can help you dispute false accusations and avoid the worst consequences of a sex crime conviction. Contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.