Benjamin Smith was accused of shooting several people at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando in 1996. He was identified by the sole eyewitness a year and half later. He went to trial in 2000, and was convicted.
In 2004, the eyewitness recanted her testimony. She said that Smith was NOT the shooter, and that she had been pressured by law enforcement and the prosecutor to implicate him. She was told by the prosecutor not to mention that she was paid ($4000!) for her testimony.
Smith’s first post-conviction attorney quit the practice of law, left the country, and was disbarred. I got the case shortly before the deadline to file the post-conviction motion. I remember driving it to Orlando myself to get it in under the wire.
The court took over almost 2 years to rule on the motion. And then, IT WAS DENIED.
We appealed the ruling to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, and WON. It was reversed, and sent back for an evidentiary hearing on the witness recantation issue.
Another 6 months passed before we were able to have the hearings, which took 2 days. The judge asked for more evidence, regarding whether the eyewitness had actually received they payment she claimed that she had gotten in exchange for her testimony. Two more hearings took place.
The Central Florida Crime Line resisted my subpoena, and I had to file a response and fight them. ON Friday, May 8, 2009, the judge granted my motion, and ordered Crime Line to produce the records.
Guess what? The payment of $4000 was made to her almost to the day Ben Smith was indicted! The judge immediately granted my motion, and set aside the murder conviction. The case is now set back for trial.
I am happy for Ben, whom I know did not commit this crime. I am happy that all the hours of research and writing, persistence, and continued battling in the face of repeated obstacles has paid off.
Justice delayed is justice denied.