Now, 30 years after his conviction and five years after he was freed, our Broward defense lawyers have learned that his representatives have filed a civil lawsuit against the state, alleging that investigators should have known his confession was untruthful.
For starters, the teen reportedly referred to the victim as a girl, despite the fact that she was just a few years away from collecting Social Security. Further, he told investigators that the victim was taller than him. In reality, she was 8 inches shorter. He also indicated that she was completely naked when he left her. She wasn’t. Additionally, he didn’t appear to know that she had been stabbed or strangled.
He first told police he had seen three other men murder the woman. He didn’t get the day or the time of the murder correct. He failed to correctly identify the murder weapon. When he was asked about details at the crime scene, he had no idea.
What’s more, this was a teenager with an IQ of 67 who was questioned without the aid of his parents or defense attorney. The result was an egregious miscarriage of justice, and it was only righted after DNA tests showed that he could not possibly have been this woman’s killer.
An attorney representing the exonerated man is now saying that police made suggestions to him in conversations that weren’t taped and that he later repeated those suggestions as if he had firsthand knowledge. Those conversations were being taped. It’s a claim police deny, but there seems to be little other explanation.
This tragic case shows once again how easily an innocent person can slip through the cracks. Even with advances in technology, police and prosecutors will still in many cases rely heavily on confessions or statements made by the suspect during questioning.
This is precisely why we so strongly urge suspects or defendants never to speak with police investigators or prosecutors without your attorney right there at your side. No matter what police tell you or offer you, do not agree to speak with them absent your lawyer. This is as true if not more true if you are innocent. As this case shows, innocence may not be enough to shield you from investigators who are pros when it comes to manipulative interrogation tactics.
It also shows how officers can hone in on a particular suspect or theory – and refuse to let go of it, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.
Here, the defendant told police the first time he had seen the victim was around 5 or 6 in the morning. Yet, detectives knew the victim had died sometime around 3 a.m.
And although he had initially said he witnessed others commit the crime, in later interrogations he took full responsibility for it.
In depositions for the upcoming civil trial, officers maintained that he got certain details right – like the description of the knife used at the scene. However, that was only after that weapon had been shown to the suspect on numerous occasions.
An attorney for the man now says officers took advantage of the boy’s willingness to help. Another suspect, who police stopped pursuing after they homed in on the teen, was later found to have been connected to the crime by DNA.
If you are charged with a crime in Broward County, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Man freed by DNA had confessed, but got many details wrong, Feb. 27, 2013, By Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Florida Defense Lawyers: Know Your Rights During Police Encounters, Feb. 13, 2013, Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog