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Archive for Thursday, April 11, 2002

probes murder case

April 11, 2002

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How many men on death row are innocent? The "Frontline" story "Requiem for Frank Lee Smith" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) demonstrates how difficult is can be for authorities to review a capital case even after new evidence emerges. And in the case of Frank Lee Smith, law enforcement officials vowed to keep him in prison even after he was proven innocent.

Smith was arrested in 1985 for the rape and murder of Shandra Whitehead, a young Fort Lauderdale, Fla., girl. Two witnesses helped police create a composite drawing of a scraggly-haired, droopy-eyed, delirious black man seen in the vicinity of the crime. Frank Lee Smith, a 38-year-old with rap sheet that included murder and manslaughter, seemed to fit the description.

Police were sure they had their man. But key witness Chiquita Lowe began to have her doubts. "When I went into the courtroom and (saw Smith), he was too skinny, too tall and did not have the droopy eye," she told "Frontline."

But bowing to pressure from her family and the police, she provided the testimony that convicted Smith and landed him on death row.

While Smith awaited execution, some Fort Lauderdale detectives began investigating Eddie Lee Mosley, a serial killer and rapist who had spent time in several mental hospitals. Mosley had been at large at the time of the Whitehead killing. His mug shot also matched the composite drawing of Whitehead's murderer  right down to the droopy eye. Confronted with Mosley's photograph, Lowe knew she had testified against the wrong man.

"Frontline" shows how Florida authorities fought every effort to challenge the Smith conviction. In December 2000, a lab matched Mosley to the Whitehead crime and exonerated Smith. But the news arrived too late. Ten months before he had been cleared, Smith had died of cancer on death row.

Tonight's other highlights

 Lorelai's relationship with Max embarrasses Rory on parent-teacher night on "Gilmore Girls" (7 p.m., WB, TV-PG)

 An intended murder victim survives her attack on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG,D,L,V).

 Jack misses a milestone in Elliot's life on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

 The staff's behavior alienates a fashion big shot (Kate Spade, as herself) on "Just Shoot Me" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

 Dr. Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) returns on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).

Series notes

 On episodes of "Friends" (NBC), Phoebe meets her sister's intended (Sean Penn) (7 p.m.), Rachel wants her own apartment (7:30 p.m.) ... Jimmy tries to drag 'Sweetknuckle Junction' into the 21st century on "Greg the Bunny" (7:30 p.m., Fox).

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