Last month, the newly-formed Conviction Review Unit in Broward County convinced a South Florida judge to free a man convicted 16 years ago of robbery and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors working with the CRU told the Broward County Circuit judge that they likely would be unable to gain a conviction today, given numerous evidentiary issues with the case, including the reliability of witnesses and an alibi that jurors never had an opportunity to hear.
An assistant state attorney leading the CRU told the judge it’s not even clear how the defendant was identified as a suspect, given that there was no physical evidence, no witnesses knew him and the only thing that lead police to him was an apparently questionable search through the TRAP program, a previously-used database of prior offender mugshots in a given area.
Broward County has one of the highest rates of false convictions in Florida. The National Registry of Exonerations notes more than 2,500 cases nationally of convicts later found innocent. More than 80 of those are from Florida and nearly a dozen in Broward. Continue reading