Leonard Cure Exonerated After More Than 16 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned
Ft. Lauderdale, FL (14 December 2020) - Today, Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Judge John J. Murphy, III vacated the armed robbery conviction and sentence of IPF client Leonard Cure. The State Attorney’s Office immediately dropped the charges, leading to Mr. Cure’s exoneration. The Seventeenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Michael Satz agreed to overturn Mr. Cure’s conviction and sentence as a result of his Conviction Review Unit (CRU) concluding its re-investigation of the case. Head of the CRU, Assistant State Attorney Arielle Demby Berger performed this re-investigation and concluded that Mr. Cure was innocent, recommending his immediate exoneration.
IPF client Leonard Cure was freed earlier this year in April through an agreed order with the CRU that amended his sentence to time served and granted him immediate release "in the best interest of justice." Alongside the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 he faced in prison, strong evidence of his innocence had come to the attention of the CRU. The immediate release at that time allowed Mr. Cure to seek refuge from the growing COVID-19 pandemic, while allowing the CRU to complete its reinvestigation of his case. Mr. Cure was released after more than 16 years of wrongful incarceration.
At the completion of its re-investigation, the CRU made its recommendation of exoneration to their Independent Review Panel (IRP), which agreed with the recommendation and State Attorney Satz signed off on the decision.
The recommendation stated, "The IRP determined that a complete review of the evidence presented at trial and in discovery, as well as further investigation of that evidence demonstrates that the case against Mr. Cure gives rise to a reasonable doubt as to his culpability, and that he is most likely innocent. The IRP recommends that based upon the CRU investigation and the panel’s review, Mr. Cure’s judgment and sentence should be vacated, and the State Attorney’s Office should enter a Nolle Prosequi as to both counts."
Krista Dolan, IPF Staff Attorney and counsel for Cure said, "We are thrilled for Mr. Cure and his family. Having his name cleared is a well-deserved win for him, and we’re grateful for Ms. Demby Berger’s extraordinary efforts on this case. She is a credit to Conviction Review Units everywhere.”
Cure is first person exonerated as a result of a joint effort and agreement with the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU). He is now home with his mother and brother.
Seth Miller, IPF Executive Director, had this to say about the success of the partnership, "Mr. Satz and Ms. Demby Berger deserve tremendous credit for reaching the right and just result in this case. The more than a year-long collaborative reinvestigation between the CRU and IPF that led to Mr. Cure’s exoneration serves as a model for how prosecutors and defense attorneys can work together to achieve justice, even decades after a conviction."
CRU founder and lead attorney Arielle Demby Berger said “After we thoroughly reinvestigated the case and presented the facts to the Independent Review Panel, it is our conclusion that it is in the best interest of justice that Leonard Cure’s conviction should be overturned,”
“This is the right thing to do,” said State Attorney Mike Satz.
Demby Berger added, “These cases are rare and take a lot of time. This is exactly why conviction review units and the opportunity for an exoneration are so crucial to ensuring justice.”
The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) represents Mr. Cure in these proceedings. Since 2003, IPF has assisted in the release from wrongful incarceration of 25 innocent individuals who have collectively served more than 530 years for the crimes of others. Located in Tallahassee, IPF’s mission is to find and free the innocent in Florida prisons, help these individuals transition back into a changed society, and work to reform the criminal justice system. For more information, visit www.FloridaInnocence.org.
Incident Date: November 10, 2003
Jurisdiction: Seventeenth Circuit
County: Broward County
Charge: Armed Robbery with a Firearm, Aggravated Assault with a Firearm
Conviction: Armed Robbery with a Firearm, Aggravated Assault with a Firearm
Sentence: Life in Prison
Year of Conviction: 2004
Release Date: April 14, 2020
Sentence Served: 16 Years
Real perpetrator found? No
Contributing Causes: Eyewitness Misidentification, Official Misconduct, Ineffective Assistance of Counsel