Miami commissioners agreed Thursday to pay $2.2 million to settle a grave injustice involving a mentally retarded man who spent 22 years behind bars — for murders and rapes he didn't commit.
The main evidence against Jerry Frank Townsend: his own confessions. But those confessions were fundamentally flawed. Townsend has an IQ of 58, making him vulnerable to police coercion. Following his 1979 arrest, he was questioned for five days by Miami police and the Broward Sheriff's Office, without an attorney present; he claimed responsibility for a host of crimes in Miami-Dade County, Broward County — even California.
Finally, in 2001, DNA evidence cleared Townsend, now 57, and led to his release. Townsend's DNA testing came at the urging of a skeptical Fort Lauderdale police detective, John Curcio.
As part of their recent back-room deliberations on whether to agree to the $2.2 million payout, Miami commissioners listened to tapes of Townsend's confessions. City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones said the repeated starting and stopping of tape was audible, leading to questions about what was said when the recorder wasn't on.''We know that there was more to that confession than what was being stated,'' Spence-Jones said.
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