Attorney argues statute of limitations ran out in Norwalk armed robbery case
STAMFORD — A public defender says charges against his client — accused of shooting a woman during a brazen robbery in a Norwalk grocery store parking lot — should be dismissed because the statute of limitations ran out.
Barry Butler, the Stamford courthouse’s lead public defender, said police arrested his client on a John Doe DNA warrant months after the five-year statute of limitations ran out on the October 2012 incident at the Norwalk Stop & Shop on Connecticut Avenue.
His client, Terrence Police, 34, of Waterbury, was charged in May with first-degree robbery and first-degree assault. Police is being held at the Bridgeport Correctional Center unable to post a $150,000 court appearance bond.
Stamford State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo said his office plans to fight Butler’s motion and will file a response next month.
“At the time the warrant was signed, I believe the state had the ability to sign a John Doe warrant and that will be our position,” Colangelo said.
According to the 16-page motion to dismiss, a man approached a woman outside the grocery store and shot her in the abdomen after she gave him four diamond and platinum rings as well as her Apple iPhone around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2012.
The man ran across Connecticut Avenue and disappeared, but security cameras helped police track the suspect and find several items of clothing, a gun and pink phone cover that belonged to the woman. The profile was entered into the state’s Combined Index DNA Identification System, but a match was not found.
In late 2012, police received an anonymous tip from a man who claimed his cousin looked like the suspect in the video that was released to the public. The man said his cousin, Police, also told family members about shooting the woman in the parking lot, according to the defense motion.
Investigators discovered Police was a felon and his DNA had been in the state database since 2008.
With the statute of limitations approaching, Norwalk police wrote an arrest affidavit in April 2017 for a John Doe, an unknown suspect with the DNA profile of the robber. A judge signed the warrant, which remained unserved while the statute of limitations ran out five months later.
Investigators arrested Police this spring and took another DNA swab, which matched the sample taken from the Norwalk robbery evidence, the motion said. The report said the DNA could have come from three other contributors, but it was between 1.2 billion and 100 billion times more likely that it came from Police, the motion said.
But Butler said the Connecticut Constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s 8th and 14th amendments require the charges be dismissed because there is no justification for continuing prosecution of the case after the statute of limitations ran out.
Butler says investigators could have arrested Police after his cousin came forward and since they already had his DNA on file.
Butler also points out precedents in U.S. Supreme Court cases, including one involving Robert Toussie, who had his 1967 conviction tossed for failing to register for the draft in 1959.
“Such a limitation is designed to protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when the basic facts may have become obscured by the passage of time and to minimize the danger of official punishment because of acts in the far-distant past,” Justice Hugo Black wrote in that Supreme Court decision.
Butler also pointed out the state Legislature, not the courts, establish the statute of limitations. Most serious felonies, including murder and kidnapping, do not have prosecution limits. Butler also said most John Doe warrants are filed in sexual assault cases.
“While Connecticut can weigh in on either side of the issue of whether the statute of limitations could be tolled by the use of a John Doe warrant, the particular facts of this single isolated non-sexual assault case calls for the dismissal of charges in this matter,” Butler wrote.