Happy 17 year exoneration anniversary, Jerry Frank Townsend!
A sufferer of severe mental disabilities with a mental capacity of an eight year old, Jerry Frank Townsend was convicted of six murders and one rape that he did not commit. His disabilities were not taken into account when he was sentenced to serve seven life sentences concurrently for these crimes.
In 1979, Townsend was initially arrested for raping a pregnant woman in Miami, Florida. It was during the investigation of this crime that he confessed to several other murders. His confession for these murders is mostly due to Townsend wanting to please authority figures, a common adaptive practice for someone with his mental capacities. In 1980, Townsend was convicted of two first-degree murders that occurred in 1973 in Broward County. He also pled guilty to four other murders in the 70’s.
In 1998, the mother of one of the murdered girls asked a Fort Lauderdale police detective to reviews the Townsend cases. In 2000, the DNA evidence of the semen sample from the child’s shorts pointed toward a man named Eddie Lee Mosely, and not Jerry Frank Townsend. This evidence officially cleared Townsend for two of the six murders, making his confessions to the other four look doubtful. Upon this discovery, the prosecutors asked that Townsend’s convictions be thrown out.
The DNA testing in this case also affected Frank Lee Smith’s case, who died on Florida’s death row before being exoneration by postconviction DNA testing. In Smith’s case, the testing also implicated Eddie Lee Mosley.
On June 15th of 2001, Jerry Frank Townsend was exonerated after spending twenty-two years in prison. Happy 17 years of Freedom, Jerry!