Southern Florida
Victims of the State

25 Cases

Broward County, FL 

Pompano Boys

May 13, 1933

Isiah (Izell) Chambers, Charlie Davis, Jack Williamson, and Walter Woodward were all convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The victim, Robert Darsey (Darcy), an elderly white man, was robbed and murdered in Pompano. The defendants' convictions were based on a false confession extracted from one of them after five days of interrogation. All four were cleared in 1942.  (Chambers et al. v. Florida)  [7/05]

 Broward County, FL

William Henry Anderson


William Henry Anderson was convicted of raping a white woman. The victim did not resist, scream, or use an available pistol in resisting Anderson's advances. According to a letter sent from Anderson's attorney to the governor, “There exists well founded belief ... that William Henry Anderson and the prosecutrix were intimate since August 1944. This belief is widespread among Negroes, but white people have been heard to express opinions likewise.” Anderson was sentenced to death and executed five months after his arrest on July 25, 1945.  (ISI) (MOJ)  [7/05]

Broward/Dade Counties, FL 

Jerry Frank Townsend


Jerry Frank Townsend, who is mentally retarded, was arrested in 1979 for the rape of a pregnant Miami woman. During the investigation, he confessed to six murders. He was convicted in 1980 for the 1973 murders of Naomi Gamble and Barbara Brown in Broward County. In 1982, he pleaded guilty to two murders in Miami including the 1979 murder of 13-year-old Sonja Marion. He also pleaded no contest to two 1979 murders in Broward County. Including the original rape, Townsend received seven life terms.

In 1998, Sonja Marion's mother had a Fort Lauderdale police detective review the Townsend cases, and DNA testing cleared him of some crimes. In 2000, DNA evidence implicated Eddie Lee Mosley as did evidence from Frank Lee Smith's case. DNA evidence cast doubt on all of Townsend's confessions, and in 2001, he was cleared of all charges and released after being imprisoned for 22 years.  (IP)  [6/05]

Broward County, FL 

Tafero & Jacobs

Feb 20, 1976

Along with Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs and Walter Rhodes, Jesse Joseph Tafero was convicted of murdering Florida highway patrolman Phillip Black and visiting Canadian constable Donald Irwin at an I-95 rest stop. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of Rhodes, who named Tafero as the shooter. The state withheld from the defense results of a polygraph that indicated Rhodes had failed. The state also withheld gunpowder test results that indicated Rhodes was the only person to have fired a gun.

Rhodes recanted his testimony on three occasions in 1977, 1979, and 1982, stating that he, not Tafero, shot the policemen. A statement from a prison guard corroborating Rhodes' recantations was suppressed and found years later. Rhodes has since reverted to his original testimony. The trial judge, “Maximum Dan” Futch, had been a highway patrolman three years before the trial and wore his police hat to work. He kept a miniature replica of an electric chair on his desk. He did not allow Tafero to call witnesses, nor would not allow him hearings on this decision. Two eyewitnesses, testifying for the state, said that while the shots were being fired, one officer was holding Tafero over the hood of the car. Tafero was executed in the electric chair on May 4, 1990. Officials interrupted the execution three times because flames and smoke shot out of his head.

Like Tafero, Jacobs was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1981. In Jacobs' 1992 appeal, the new evidence was presented which resulted in the reversal of her conviction. Had the evidence been found before Tafero's execution, it is highly probable that his conviction would have been likewise overturned. Jacobs later accepted a plea bargain in which she did not have to admit guilt and was released. She affirms her innocence. A 1996 ABC TV movie was made about the case entitled In the Blink of an Eye.  (CWC) (NY Times)  [6/05]

 Broward County, FL

Christopher Clugston

Oct 25, 1981 (Hallandale)

Christopher Clugston was convicted of the murder of Bryce Waldman. After a woman named Kathy Menut was thrown out of a Hallandale bar named the Agora Ballroom, her husband, Theodore Menut, and her friend, Clugston, allegedly returned in a green station wagon. As the car cruised through the parking lot, Clugston reportedly opened fire with a .30-.30 rifle, killing Waldman, a 19-year-old University of Miami student was working at the bar as a part-time bouncer. No physical evidence linked Clugston to the crime. His first two trials ended in hung juries, but he was convicted at his third trial.

In 1986, the Menuts recanted their testimony that Clugston had participated in the crime. Theodore Menut had previously had refused at some point to testify against Clugston, apparently after he was also convicted of the murder. Kathy Menut told authorities that they framed Clugston to help the actual gunman. In addition, a new witness surfaced to say that Clugston was not the man she saw in the car just before the shooting. And a composite portrait drawn at the time of the crime was withheld from Clugston's defense at trial. It showed a man with long hair and a mustache, unlike the clean-shaven Clugston.

In July 1994, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles commuted the Clugston's life sentence to time served on the condition that he leave Florida and never return. Clugston hails from Bethesda, MD. Clugston, however, left prison with a death sentence. He contracted AIDS from being raped repeatedly while incarcerated. He was only 22-years-old when he went to prison. While Clugston was more than happy to leave Florida, the condition that he not return relieved Florida of responsibility for providing years of expensive treatment for Clugston's condition. Following his release, Clugston sought a new trial to clear his name, but it was denied.  (Archives) (SP Times) (CNN)  [4/09]

Broward County, FL 

Frank Lee Smith

Apr 14, 1985

Frank Lee Smith was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Shandra Whitehead, an 8-year-old girl. The victim had been strangled with her pajama bottoms in her home at 2970 NW Eighth Place in Fort Lauderdale. An eyewitness, Chiquita Lowe, identified Smith in court. Gov. Bob Martinez signed Smith's death warrant on Oct. 16, 1989, but less than a month before Smith's scheduled execution, the eyewitness recanted. She testified she wrongly identified Smith after police pressured her, telling her Smith was dangerous. A week before Smith was to die, the Florida Supreme Court stayed the execution. However, a judge turned down Smith's request for a new trial after prosecutors depicted Lowe as a liar. In 2000, 11 months after Smith died in prison, DNA test results exonerated him and identified Eddie Lee Mosley as the true perpetrator. Smith's case was featured on Frontline.  (IP) (CWC) (FLCC)  [6/05]

Broward County, FL 

Michael Rivera

Jan 30, 1986

Michael Thomas Rivera was convicted of the abduction and murder of Staci Jazvac, 11, and sentenced to death. Jazvac disappeared on Jan. 30, 1986 while riding her bike in Lauderdale Lakes. Her body was found 15 days later in Coral Springs. Rivera allegedly abducted Staci while driving his friend's blue van. At Rivera's trial, a forensic expert testified that hairs found in the van “could be concluded as being” from Staci's head. DNA tests in 2003 show that the hairs were not from Staci. Rivera's friend now swears he had the blue van on the night of the murder.  [11/05]

 Broward County, FL

Larry Bostic

Oct 12, 1988 (Ft Lauderdale)

After being identified by the victim of a rape as her assailant, Larry Bostic pleaded guilty to the crime. He stated during appeals that he was “coerced” to plead guilty by both the prosecutor and his court-appointed attorney. Bostic was released on parole after serving three years of imprisonment, but 9 months later he violated his parole and was sent back to prison. In 2005, Bostic filed a handwritten motion from prison, requesting DNA testing. In 2007, DNA tests were performed which exonerated him. Reportedly, the victim told an investigator in 2007 that she had not seen her assailant, but identified Bostic because she believed she had seen him in the neighborhood days before the crime.  (IP)  [10/07]

 Broward County, FL

Robert Hayes

Feb 20, 1990

Robert Earl Hayes, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and the strangulation of Pamela Albertson, a 32-year-old white woman. Hayes and the victim both worked at the Pompano Harness Track. The prosecution presented testimony placing Hayes with the woman, whom Hayes knew, at the time of the murder. It also introduced DNA evidence that supposedly linked him to the crime. On appeal, a retrial was ordered because of faulty DNA analysis. New DNA testing exonerated Hayes, but the prosecution refused to drop charges. At the 1997 retrial, evidence emerged that the victim was found clutching hairs of a white man in her hands. Evidence also emerged linking another man to the murder – a man who had since been convicted of another rape. The retrial jury acquitted Hayes of all charges.  (PC) (CWC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Broward County, FL

Brown & King

Nov 13, 1990

Timothy Brown, a mentally retarded man, gave a garbled confession to the murder of Broward Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Behan for which he was convicted. In 2001, the Miami Herald questioned the conviction in a series of investigative articles. In 2003, a judge threw out Brown's confession and Brown was released on low bail. It seems unlikely that he will be retried.

Brown's co-defendant, Keith King, also gave a confession after being coerced, threatened, and punched by detectives. King served a reduced sentence on a plea bargain to manslaughter and was free at the time of Brown's release.  (Miami Herald) (AP News)  [9/05]

 Broward County, FL

Herman Lindsey

Apr 19, 1994

Herman Lindsey was convicted in 2006 of the 1994 murder of Joanne Mazollo. Mazollo was shot to death during a robbery of the Big Dollar pawnshop in which she worked. The evidence against Lindsey consisted of testimony which merely raised suspicions about him.

The strongest piece of evidence was the testimony of Mark Simms, who reportedly had a jailhouse conversation with Lindsey about a month after the crime, long before Lindsey was charged in the Mazollo murder. Simms told Lindsey he had been involved in a robbery in which someone was shot but not killed. Lindsey then told Simms that he should have killed the person he shot because this person had seen his face. Lindsey also told Simms that he had to do that once. Simms said he had no idea at the time what robbery or murder Lindsey might have been talking about. Lindsey was sentenced to death.

In July 2009 the Florida Supreme Court overturned Lindsey's conviction after finding that the evidence used against him was insufficient to convict. The Court also ordered Lindsey's acquittal.  (Lindsey v. State) (Miami Herald)  [8/09]

 Broward County, FL

Robert Burkell

Nov 22, 2003 (Tamarac)

Robert Burkell was convicted of the murder of 81-year-old Charles Bertheas. Bertheas, a French national, rented a room inside Burkell's home at 9107 NW 72 Court, in Tamarac, FL. Burkell told investigators he discovered Bertheas lying on the floor inside his room and called 911. Tamarac Fire Rescue responded to the scene and determined Bertheas was dead. Bertheas had been bludgeoned with repeated blows to the head, but no weapon was ever identified or found. His death was ruled a homicide due to blunt trauma. Bertheas was found on a Sunday afternoon. It was determined that he died approximately 18 hours before, placing his murder on the previous night. Bertheas was last seen around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.
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 Collier County, FL

John Ballard

Mar 7, 1999

John Ballard was convicted of murdering Jennifer Jones and Willie Patin in their apartment, an apartment in which Ballard was a frequent guest. Ballard was convicted due to fingerprint evidence found in the apartment and the fact that hairs found in the victims' hands were consistent with his hair. In 2006, Ballard was released after the Florida Supreme Court vacated his sentence due to insufficient evidence.  (FLCC) (JD)  [12/06]

Dade County, FL 

Joseph Shea

Feb 23, 1959 (Miami)

Joseph F. Shea was convicted of murder after confessing to committing one. The victim, Mary Meslener, 23, was a National Airlines clerk and was found on a canal bank three miles from Miami International Airport. She had been shot once in the head. More than two months after the murder, Shea, 20, an airman in the U.S. Air Force, waved a bloody shirt at his sergeant in West Palm Beach and vaguely insisted that he had done “something bad.” Because Shea had been trying to fake a medical discharge, the sergeant was skeptical. However, the incident brought Shea to the attention of police.
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 Dade County, FL

Luis Diaz

1977-79 (Coral Gables)

Luis Diaz was charged with being the Bird Road rapist and convicted of 7 rapes after being identified by 8 victims, some of whom initially described their attacker as being 6' tall, 200 lbs., and fluent in English. Diaz is 5'3", 134 lbs. and speaks little to no English. In 1993, two victims recanted their identification of Diaz and those convictions were vacated in 2001. In 2005, DNA tests excluded him as the attacker in two other Bird Road rapes and showed that the same perpetrator committed both rapes. The DNA results cast doubt on Diaz's remaining rape convictions. Diaz was freed on Aug. 3, 2005.  (IP) (SP Times)  [9/05]

 Dade County, FL

Luis Carlos Arango

Mar 28, 1980

Luis Carlos Arango was sentenced to death for the murder of Jario Posada. When police arrived at the murder scene in Arango's apartment, Arango told them that three armed men had robbed them and shot Posada. He said two of the bandits had fled out the kitchen door while the third had jumped off the bedroom balcony. Other than Arango, there were no eyewitnesses. Two guns were found in the apartment, one of which was used to shoot Posada. Neither of them had Arango's fingerprints on them. At trial, Arango took the stand and told his story, but the prosecutor argued to the jury that while his story created the possibility of a doubt, it did not create reasonable doubt, as it was totally uncorroborated by any physical evidence.

However, there was corroborating physical evidence, but it was withheld from the defense. When police conducted a search the day after the murder, they found a cocked pistol and shell casings under the bedroom balcony. The pistol had been purchased two days earlier and was not registered to Arango. Because of this withheld evidence the Florida Supreme Court vacated his conviction and Arango was released in 1986.  (Brief) (82) (5/83) (9/83) (84) (85) (86)  [7/07]

Dade County, FL 

Anibal Jaramillo

Nov 30, 1980

Anibal Jaramillo was convicted of the murders of Gilberto Reyes and Candelaria Marin. He was sentenced to death. The prosecution's case was built on the fact that Jaramillo's fingerprints were found on a knife casing, a table, and grocery bag in the victims' home. At trial, Jaramillo explained that he had been in the victims' home earlier that day and had helped the victims' nephew cut open some boxes, but the jury convicted him nonetheless. The victims' nephew was unavailable to corroborate or contradict Jaramillo's testimony, as he could not be located. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution evidence was completely inadequate to support a conviction, and ordered Jaramillo's acquittal in 1982. Subsequent to his release, Jaramillo was deported to Columbia and was murdered there.  (FLCC)

Dade County, FL 

Richard McKinley

Jan 1983 (Homestead)

Richard McKinley was convicted of raping an eleven-year-old girl. Prosecutors told the jury that recovered semen matched his blood type. A police officer testified that he saw McKinley on top of the victim with his pants down. DNA tests later showed that semen and hair evidence could not have come from McKinley. McKinley was reportedly being released after serving more than 20 years of imprisonment.  (PC)  [10/05]

Dade County, FL 

Krishna Maharaj

Oct 16, 1986

Krishna Maharaj was sentenced to death for the murders of Derrick Moo Young, 53, and his son, Duane, 23. The victims, both Jamaicans, had been fatally shot in a room at the Dupont Plaza Hotel. Maharaj, a Trinidad born British national, owned and operated the Caribbean Times, a newspaper which catered to the West Indian community. Maharaj has six alibi witnesses that can testify that at the time of the killings, he was 30 miles away at a Fort Lauderdale business meeting. An investigator working for the defence claims that Maharaj's lawyer was threatened just before the trial – at which he called none of the witnesses. All six alibi witnesses were willing to testify.
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 Dade County, FL

Thomas James

Jan 17, 1990

Thomas Raynard James was convicted of shooting to death Francis McKinnion during a home invasion. Evidence points to a Thomas James as the killer, but a different Thomas James. Police apparently knew that Thomas Raynard James was not the real killer, so they waited 6 months to charge him, at which time he could not establish where he was or who he was with on the evening of the murder.  (JD)  [9/05]

Lee County, FL 

Delbert Tibbs

Feb 3, 1974

Delbert Lee Tibbs was convicted of shooting to death 27-year-old Terry Robert Milroy and raping 17-year-old Cynthia Nadeau. Both victims were white and Tibbs, a black man, was sentenced to death. Tibbs, a theological student, had a solid alibi and did not match the Nadeau's initial description, but was later identified by her anyway. She admitted being under the influence of illegal drugs at the time of the attack. This identification was the crux of the prosecution's case. The prosecution also presented the testimony of a jailhouse informant who recanted his testimony following the trial. The Florida Supreme Court threw out the conviction for insufficient evidence. Tibbs was released in 1977 but faced a possible retrial. All charges against Tibbs were dropped in 1982 after the prosecutor from the first trial came forward and said that he would testify on behalf of Tibbs at any new trial. This prosecutor stated that he would tell the jury that the case against Tibbs was tainted from the start, and that the police and prosecutors knew it.  (CWC) (PC) (FLCC)  [7/05]

 Monroe County, FL

Orlando Bosquete

June 25, 1982 (Stock Island)

Orlando Bosquete was convicted of rape. The victim was raped in her apartment and said her assailant was a Latino who wore no shirt and had no hair. Shortly after the incident, an officer stopped several Cuban-American men in a convenience store parking lot. Only Bosquete had no shirt and no hair. The victim identified Bosquete as her assailant from 20 feet away as he was in a police car. Bosquete had a large, black moustache that the victim then added to her description of her assailant.

Bosquete had come to the U.S. as part of the 1980 Mariel boatlift. Bosquete escaped from prison in 1985, but was arrested 10 years later. Three months later, he escaped again, but was arrested again after a year. DNA tests proved him innocent in 2006, and the prosecutor has apologized. Nevertheless, upon release from prison, he was rearrested by immigration because while he was on the run, he failed to register and pursue citizenship. A judge will decide whether he can be deported.  (AP News) (IP)

Palm Beach County, FL 

Paul William Scott

Dec 6, 1978 (Boca Raton)

Paul William Scott was sentenced to death for the murder of James Alessi, a Boca Raton florist. Scott had accompanied a friend, Rick Kondian, to Alessi's home where they smoked some pot. Unknown to the two, Alessi had laced it with PCP, a dangerous hallucinogen. Scott laid down in another room. Meanwhile, Alessi, a 6'2" homosexual, tried to force himself sexually on Kondian. Kondian screamed for Scott's help, and with his aid managed to subdue Alessi. Scott then left. Kondian left, but returned three and a half-hours later to rob Alessi, and killed him with a champagne bottle during the robbery.

Kondian cut his hand badly with the cork wire from the bottle, and while he afterwards threw the bottle in the woods, a circle of blood from the bottle was left at the murder scene. At Scott's trial, the prosecution withheld this blood evidence. Two witnesses to the murder have also come forward to exonerate Scott. A book was written about the case entitled A Circle of Blood by Bob Pauley.  (FYI) (AngelFire) (JD) (11/7/94) (11/15/94) (99) (09)  [10/08]

Palm Beach County, FL 

Gilbert Stokes

Aug 15, 2000 (Belle Glade)

Gilbert Stokes was convicted of murdering 18-year-old Jyron Seider during the robbery of a Belle Glade, Florida street dice game. Stokes was a member of the “Dogs Under Fire” gang while Seider was not. An appeals court overturned Stokes's conviction because the prosecutor repeatedly tried to create the impression that Stokes was motivated to kill Seider because he was a non-gang member. No evidence supported that assertion and it was clear that Stokes socialized with non-gang members. The court stated, “Here, the State lacked strong evidence and it is questionable, under the facts of this case, whether the jury would have found Stokes guilty without hearing evidence of his DUF membership.” The appeals court also overturned the conviction because the trial judge improperly allowed a detective to give hearsay testimony that alleged witnesses who did not come to court to testify had implicated Stokes in the murder.

DNA evidence and two eyewitnesses linked the state's star witness, Leon Harrell, to the murder. The two witnesses said that Stokes was not involved. Police originally arrested Harrell for the murder, but they were unable to make a case against him before his constitutional right to a speedy trial ran out. At Stokes's second trial in 2006, Harrell refused to testify against Stokes unless prosecutors promised him leniency on unrelated drug charges. Prosecutors then offered Stokes a plea deal which he accepted on advice of his attorney. Though he maintained his innocence, Stokes pled guilty to manslaughter and aggravated assault in exchange for a 12-year sentence. He had already served five years and could be released before he served another five. According to Stokes's attorney, it is “better to be 32 and walking the streets than 65 and making license plates.”  (JD) (Sun Sentinel)  [2/07]

 Palm Beach County, FL

Cody Davis

Feb 27, 2006

Cody Davis was convicted of robbing Foster's Too, a bar in West Palm Beach. Following the robbery, two witnesses identified Davis from a photo lineup, although one witness remembered the robber had a tattoo on his hand, which Davis did not have. Police found a ski mask outside the bar, but it was not considered evidence because the robber did not wear a ski mask. Nevertheless, DNA testing was performed on the mask. Four months after Davis's conviction, the results came back and matched a man named Jeremy Prichard who had a distinctive tattoo on his hand similar to the one the eyewitness recalled. When investigators questioned Prichard, he confessed to committing the Foster's Too robbery as well as three other bar robberies. Davis was released in early 2007.  (IP)  [7/07]