Tuesday, July 23, 2013

FL - DNA exoneration lawsuit settled

Original Article

Diigo Post Excerpt:
Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on death row, just months before DNA exonerated him of raping and murdering an 8-year-old girl in Fort Lauderdale. Now, more than 13 years later, his family's civil lawsuit against the Broward Sheriff's Office and two detectives accused of framing him has finally been settled.

Smith's death made him a national symbol because it was the first case in the U.S. that scientifically proved an innocent man had died in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

But the financial settlement reached with the Sheriff's Office — on behalf of the agency and retired detectives Richard Scheff and Philip Amabile — is much less than the millions awarded in Broward's other notorious wrongful conviction cases.

The civil suit was recently settled for just $340,000 — including attorney fees and legal costs, lawyers Michael Wrubel and James Green told the Sun Sentinel. They filed the lawsuit on behalf of Smith's closest surviving relative, his half-sister Virginia Smith, of Sunrise.

Eight-year-old Shandra Whitehead was found unconscious in her Fort Lauderdale home in April 1985. The child was raped, beaten with a rock and left for dead, with her pajamas tied around her neck in an attempt to strangle her. She lingered for nine days without regaining consciousness before dying from the head injuries.

Smith vehemently denied he had anything to do with Shandra's horrific murder. His own mother was raped and murdered by an attacker who dumped her body in a Davie lake when Smith was in his teens.

Smith wept on the witness stand during the penalty phase of his trial, imploring jurors to believe he was innocent.

"For me to be turned around and be accused, the way I feel about a rape," he told them. "My mama was killed like this. ... How do you think I feel about a rapist, and beyond that a baby?"

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