In 1993, in Anson County, a rural county 55 miles Southeast of Charlotte, law enforcement officers arrested Floyd Brown for the beating death of a 80 year old Katherine Lynch. The only evidence against Brown was a confession. The confession was written down by a state law enforcement officer and signed by Brown. Case closed? Not quite. Brown was not brought to trial because with IQ scores typically in the low 50s, he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. He was sent to a state mental hospital where prosecutors hoped he could be restored to competence. After his arrest, staffers at the hospital found Brown incompetent for trial and wrote that it was unlikely he would ever improve. But in 2003, a decade after his arrest, hospital staff said Brown was now able to understand the charges and could stand trial.
Case open again, right? Not so fast. Defense attorneys began to raise questions about the reliability of the confession and the officers who took the confession. Other problems raised serious questions about the strength of the State's case and whether it would be fair to take Brown to trial thirteen years after his arrest:
• All physical evidence, kept at the Anson County Sheriff's Office, is missing, court records say. Missing is physical evidence including fingerprint lifts, hairs, a phone and a window from Lynch's home, pieces of the floor taken for possible shoe prints, and clothing from Brown and Lynch. None of the items, when initially tested, linked Brown to the scene.
• The detectives who investigated the 1993 beating death later pleaded guilty to unrelated federal charges of soliciting thousands of dollars in bribes from suspects in other cases.He shouldn't have to stay there. District Attorney Michael Parker should consider Mr. Brown's mental condition, his long hospitalization and the unlikelihood of conviction and drop the charges.
At a 2005 hearing on whether to allow the confession in court, despite expert testimony that there was no way he could have given the confession detectives said he did, a judge held that the confession was admissible. Case going to trial, right?
Not so fast. With their case falling apart, prosecutors offered Brown a plea to voluntary manslaughter with credit for time served, a deal which would have allowed Brown to eventually be released. But Brown was unable to understand the plea deal and incompetent to decide whether to accept it. The judge agreed but denied a defense motion to dismiss the case because of the lost evidence.
So where does that leave Brown. Apparently, he is stuck in a mental hospital for the rest of his life. Prosecutors believe he is guilty, dangerous, but incompetent. They are unwilling to dismiss the charges and let Brown go (even though they were willing to let him go early if he took the plea deal).
This situation is intolerable. A man who very well could be innocent is stuck in a mental hospital unable to prove his innocence and unable to go to trial.