[Hpn] Retarded Man Is Freed From Prison After DNA Casts Doubt
Fri, 15 Jun 2001 19:36:26 -0400
June 15, 2001
By: BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press Writer
MIAMI_April 2001, DNA evidence cleared Townsend of the crimes.
A retarded man who spent 22 years behind bars for six murders
was ordered freed Friday after DNA evidence indicated the eager-to-please
defendant confessed to crimes he didn't commit.
"It is abundantly clear that he is the victim of an enormous
tragedy," Judge Scott Silverman said.
Jerry Frank Townsend, 49, was convicted of two murders and
pleaded guilty to four others and a rape, confessing to all of the crimes.
He was serving seven life sentences.
But DNA evidence later cleared him in two of those murders.
That, in turn, cast doubt on his confessions in the other cases, and
prosecutors asked that those convictions or guilty pleas be thrown out,
Townsend's IQ is between 50 and 60 and he has the mental
capacity of an 8-year-old, authorities said.
Police and Townsend's lawyers have said he admitted to crimes
did not commit to please detectives.
"He liked the cops, he wanted to be with the cops. They were
buddies and frankly that's a great tool if you get suspects to like you _
that's a good thing," Miami Assistant Police Chief James Chambliss said.
was trying to be helpful to them. That's where the problem came up."
Miami-Dade County prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle said it
would be too hard to retry him on some of the murder and rape charges
because prosecutors have no physical evidence and cannot find witnesses.
In releasing Townsend, the judge cited the "deficiency in the
state's evidence, a lack of trust in its evidence including the obtained
confession, and in some cases what may very well be Mr. Townsend's outright
Townsend was arrested and charged with raping a pregnant woman
in daylight on a downtown Miami street. The victim and witnesses pointed
out to police a few blocks away. During the investigation, Townsend
confessed to several other slayings and was taken to murder scenes in
During taped confessions, police helped Townsend remember
details and corrected him when his story was inconsistent.
The assistant police chief stood behind the two detectives who
worked the case, saying they did not intentionally take advantage of
Townsend's mental disability to get him to confess to crimes he didn't
"Both of them have good reputations and are well thought of as
good investigators," Chambliss said. "I think they thought they had the
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