Anatomy of a frame-up
“To seek the just determination of all criminal matters that are presented to the State Attorney” – from the web site of Broward State Attorney Michael Satz
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Once upon a time Jerry Frank Townsend was South Florida’s deadliest serial killer and rapist.
Broward Sheriff’s Office and Miami Police Department homicide detectives said it was so. Townsend, a grown man with the mental capacity of a child, confessed to nearly two dozen sex murders, they said.
Convicted of six brutal murders and a rape in 1980, Townsend was sent to prison for life. He remained behind bars for 22 years, until he was exonerated by DNA tests that didn’t exist when he was arrested.
The police frame-up of Townsend continues to haunt both BSO and county taxpayers. The Sun-Sentinel reported last month that BSO has agreed to pay $2 million over the next five years to settle a Broward civil rights lawsuit brought on Townsend’s behalf. Miami paid $2.2 million last year to end a similar Townsend suit filed in federal court. The public spent at least $1 million more on defense lawyers for the officers who were involved.
Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, once quick to prosecute Townsend on scant evidence, moved to set aside Townsend’s convictions after the DNA tests cleared him, but conducted no criminal investigation of the police whose testimony put Townsend in prison. Satz spokesman Ron Ishoy said Wednesday that prosecutors reviewed “the entire Townsend case even before the DNA testing” but “did not uncover any evidence to suggest” a frame-up.
Had an actual investigation been made, however, Satz would have found a disturbing record replete with clear and convincing evidence of specific crimes by BSO detectives and other officers, including perjury and the falsification of police reports.