PHOENIX — A judge has dismissed the murder charges against Jon Clark, the ex-boyfriend of Kiera Bergman, arrested and accused of her murder.
In a lengthy ruling, the judge cited the prosecutor's failure to disclose important, exculpatory evidence in a timely manner and also was critical of the Phoenix Police Department for not following up on Silent Witness tips.
The case is not closed yet, and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office could still re-indict Clark for the teen's murder in the future. Clark has already been indicted for the murder twice, "largely on circumstantial evidence" according to the judge's ruling.
In court documents police initially said a combination of witness accounts and an extensive search of both Bergman and Clark's internet activity helped identify Clark as the suspect.
Kiera Bergman was just 19-years-old when her smile was taken from the world.
"It’s horrible, it’s hell," said Chris Bragg, Kiera's father.
Kiera's parents have been waiting on justice ever since.
"It seems like it has two speeds, slow and slower," said Bragg.
The murder trial involving Clark was initially slated for February, then March, then early April. On Tuesday, a Maricopa County judge dismissed the case without prejudice.
"The judge essentially ruled that there is information that needs to be shared. So we have to go back to the very beginning and take a look at the case based on the evidence in its entirety," said Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
The judge was far harsher with his words, stating that his "overriding concern necessarily revolves around the State’s clear mishandling of the potentially exculpatory Silent Witness records."
Clark's defense attorney's successfully argued that the state, county prosecutors and police, did not investigate nor disclose an important Silent Witness tip that would have benefited their main suspect, Clark.
"Someone called in saying they had seen Kiera two weeks after she disappeared," said Bragg, explaining the Silent Witness tip.
That information is considered exculpatory and beneficial to Clark.
But it was never mentioned to the grand jury or in the discovery given to Clark's public defenders.
The judge writing, "the State’s failure to identify and disclose these records for eighteen (18) months constituted an act of extreme negligence.”
"They weren’t things that were intentionally withheld," said Liewer, who pointed out that the defense filed many unsuccessful motions as well, and noted that prosecutors claim that did not know about the Silent Witness tip for more than a year.
"I’m angry, I’m very upset. Just that this guy is out and walking the streets right now," said Bragg.
"Can you say with confidence the county attorney’s office will bring new charges against Jon Clark?" asked ABC15's Zach Crenshaw.
"Really not in a position to say that today at this moment," replied Liewer. "I can tell you that we are dedicated to finding justice for Kiera."
"Do you feel like you still will get justice for Kiera?"
"I hope we do," replied Bragg. "But I don’t know how confident I am in Maricopa County‘s Justice system."
The County Attorney's Office indicated they will continue to pursue this case, which could mean getting another grand jury indictment. The judge said prosecutors must disclose all the evidence this time, and even outlined specifics.
It could be a while before another murder charge is brought in the case because grand juries are not currently meeting due to coronavirus.
Clark was initially arrested after detectives found evidence of identity theft and forgery while searching his car as part of the investigation into Bergman's disappearance. He is still facing those charges and is under court supervision.