Prosecutors in Fort Lauredale, Florida, said they would ask a judge to dismiss four murder convictions against a man who has served 21 years for pleading guilty to six killings and a rape, after DNA tests proved he did not commit two of the murders. Broward County prosecutors cleared 49-year-old Jerry Frank Townsend of four of the murders because they said the DNA results found no credible evidence to support his confessions. The tests for the two murders found DNA from another man, Eddie Lee Mosley, the Broward County Sheriff's Office said. Mosley, now 52, has been in state psychiatric hospitals since 1988, when he was found incompetent to stand trial for the murders of two Broward women.
Townsend will remain in prison for two other murders and a rape he confessed to committing in Miami-Dade County, but prosecutors there said they were investigating whether the convictions should stand. Dennis Urbano, one of the attorneys who represented Townsend in the Miami-Dade cases, said it would be unfair to keep his client locked up because his confessions cannot be trusted. According to the attorney Townsend was mentally retarded and confessed to any crime police mentioned because he wanted to please them. Urbano said he experimented with Townsend at the jail and could get him to confess to anything.
On June June 15, 2001, Townsend was freed after DNA evidence indicated he didn't commit any of the killings he confessed to having committed. "It is abundantly clear that he is the victim of an enormous tragedy," said Judge Scott Silverman.
In 1979, Townsend, 49, was convicted of two murders and pleaded guilty to four others after confessing to the six killings. But his confession was thrown in doubt when DNA evidence in two of the murders cleared him and pointed at Mosley as the killer.
Police said Townsend, whose IQ is between 50 and 60 and has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, admitted to crimes he did not commit to please detectives. "He liked the cops, he wanted to be with the cops. They were his 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. "He was trying to be helpful to them. That's where the problem came up."
Townsend was originally arrested and charged with raping a pregnant woman in daylight on a downtown Miami street. The victim and witnesses pointed him out to police a few blocks away. During the investigation, Townsend confessed to several other slayings and was taken to murder scenes in Broward County.
On September 1, 2001, Fort Lauderdale police announced DNA evidence had linked Mosley to the death of an eighth woman slain in 1984. Mosley, who has been involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions since 1988, was genetically linked to the rape and murder of 29-year-old Loretta Young Brown. Previous DNA tests have linked Mosley to the seven other deaths -- Emma Cook, 54; Teresa Giles, 22; Sonja Marion, 13; Vetta Turner, 34; Shandra Whitehead, 8; Terry Jean Cummings, 21, Naomi Gamble, 15. Mosley has not been charged with any of the killings because he has been found incompetent to stand trial in two of the murders. Prosecutors began testing Mosley's DNA against several South Florida murders after tests linked him to the 1985 slaying of 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead. He is suspected of slaying up to 16 women and young girls in the Fort Lauderdale area between 1973 and 1987.
November 17, 2001: According to a court-appointed psychologist, Mosley is incompetent to stand trial for those crimes because he is mentally retarded. Mosley was evaluated in the state psychiatric hospital in Chattahoochee, where he is confined. "It is the opinion of this examiner that Mr. Mosley is incompetent to proceed," psychologist Trudy Block-Garfield wrote in the competency evaluation report. She added Mosley does not have a rational understanding of the murder and rape charges against him, does not understand what the death penalty means, did not understand the role of his lawyer or the prosecutor and would not be able to give reasonable and relevant testimony.
Block-Garfield wrote that Mosley functions somewhere in the range of a 51/2-year-old and an 11-year-old, with the verbal ability of a 7-year-old, and that over the years his IQ has tested in the high 40s to the low 60s. "In virtually all testing, he scored in the mentally retarded range," she wrote. "There is no real indication that Mr. Mosley is psychotic, and it is questionable that he ever was psychotic."
Fort Lauderdale homicide detective John Curcio has maintained that Mosley was putting on an act in his interviews with psychologists through the years.