4. The Clues Investigators Neglected
The police failed to look at other suspects, including, in particular, a man in the
neighborhood who had been a suspect for years in numerous rape/murders: Eddie
Lee Mosley. The composite sketch of the perpetrator -- drawn from Chiquita Lowe's description and that of another person who had seen a man in the
area the night of the murder -- matched Eddie Lee Mosley far more than Frank Lee Smith. Mosley had been connected to crimes in the bordering Ft.
Lauderdale/Broward County jurisdictions for years; Ft. Lauderdale police long
suspected his involvement in the murders. Yet the Broward Sheriff's Office
never investigated Mosley as a possible suspect -- not even after Chiquita Lowe recanted
her testimony and said it was Mosley she saw. (Watch a video excerpt from "Requiem for Frank Lee Smith" on the failure of the police to investigate Mosley.)
5. The Disputed Photo Line-ups
After Frank Lee Smith's conviction, the lead investigator in the case, Det. Richard Scheff of the Broward Sheriff's Office, twice testified that he had
shown Chiquita Lowe a third photo line-up, back at the time of the
murder, which included a picture of Eddie Lee Mosley. (Mosley was later implicated
by DNA tests as Shandra Whitehead's murderer.)
Scheff contended that Chiquita Lowe was shown a photo of Mosley prior to the trial, and
yet in court she still testified that Frank Lee Smith was the man she saw the night of the murder. The implication was that Lowe's post-trial identification of Mosley had to be mistaken.
But Det. Scheff's testimony about the third line-up was something new. He had consistently said in his depositions and trial testimony that he showed the witnesses
only two line-ups, one with Frank Lee Smith in it and one without him.
Chiquita Lowe and her defense attorney say they were never shown the third
6. Frank Lee Smith's Many Lost Judicial Appeals
For more than a decade, Florida's courts held numerous hearings on the Frank
Lee Smith case, reaching the state Supreme Court on several occasions. Here's a summary of the legal battles and judicial appeals.
7. The State's Refusal to Test DNA
The defense filed many motions requesting DNA testing for Frank Lee Smith. The first such request came in 1998, after advanced DNA testing was permitted in the courts. Some DNA material still existed in the case of Shandra Whitehead.
At first the state agreed to the tests, thinking that with the upcoming
evidentiary hearing on Chiquita Lowe's recantation, they needed something to
bolster their case against Smith as much as possible.
However, prosecutors subsequently found Lowe's testimony at the hearing unimpressive and they decided to deny the DNA testing. Observers like law
professor Jonathan Simon condemn the state's decision, saying that once
prosecutors knew that they had not lost the death sentence in the hearing, they
simply didn't want to take the chance of losing it because of the DNA.
For the next year, motions were filed by the defense. There were objections
from the state and more defense filings were made, but there was no ruling from the judge.
It would take DNA tests implicating Eddie Lee Mosley in rape and
murders throughout the area to force the state prosecutors to finally stop fighting DNA
testing for Frank Lee Smith. But by the time they did so, he had already died of cancer on death row.
8. Florida's Flawed Death Sentences Lead the Country
The careless investigation, wrongful conviction and death sentencing of
Frank Lee Smith is not surprising when viewed in the context of Florida's
shameful ranking in death penalty case errors. The second part of a recent massive study on the death penalty in America, called "A Broken System," concludes that five of the 15 counties in the U.S. that impose the death penalty most frequently are in Florida, ranking it among a handful of states that are at the highest risk for handing down wrongful convictions. More people have been removed from Florida's death row following findings that they were not guilty than in any other state. James Liebman, co-author of the study, calls it "Florida Roulette," and in this section of the report the authors cite Frank Lee Smith's case as an illustration of the flaws in that state's justice system (Note: the Smith case is at the very end of this section).
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