National Registry of Exonerations

Cheydrick Britt goes free after more than nine years of wrongful imprisonment

Cheydrick with legal team
Cheydrick Britt, second from right, with his legal team (L-R) IPF Executive Director Seth Miller, local counsel Charles Murray, and IPF staff attorney Melissa Montle.

On September 21, 2002, a 15-year-old girl telephoned relatives and reported that her mother’s boyfriend had raped her that morning in their home in Tampa, Florida.

The girl’s grandmother came to the home where 29-year-old Cheydrick Britt had been living with the girl and her mother for several years. The girl said the Britt forced her into the master bedroom around 6 a.m. after her mother had left to go to work.

The girl said that Britt had put on a pornographic video and then raped her and forced her to masturbate him until he ejaculated onto the bed, her hand and thigh and one of her socks. She said Britt told her to take a shower while he sprayed and scrubbed the bed with bleach. At about 10:30 a.m., the girl’s mother returned to the home—although she did not come inside—to pick up Britt so the two of them could go shopping.

The grandmother took the bleach bottle, a videotape, and the sheets from the bed and went to her own home with the girl. Later, they returned to the girl’s home and called police. The girl told police that Britt penetrated her five times, ejaculated once inside of her and ejaculated twice after she masturbated him.

Police confiscated the evidence that the grandmother had, as well as the  clothing that the victim said she was wearing during the assault, including pink underwear. The girl was taken to a rape crisis clinic and examined by a nurse who prepared a rape kit. The girl gave a different account to the nurse, saying that Britt ejaculated in her hands and then re-inserted his penis into her vagina. The girl also told the nurse that she was sexually active. The nurse later testified that there was redness in the vaginal area that could have been consistent with both forced and consensual intercourse.

Britt was arrested the same day while with the girl’s mother. When she was told why Britt was being arrested, she physically attacked him and had to be restrained. Britt was charged with rape, sexual battery and sexual molestation of a victim under the age of 16.

In January and March of 2003, the rape kit, hairs, the victim’s underwear and halter top, and the sheet were sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime laboratory. Tests were positive for semen on the sheet, but this was not considered significant since this was the bed where Britt regularly slept and had intercourse with the girl’s mother. There was no evidence of semen on the vaginal swabs or swabs taken of the victim’s mouth. The victim’s underwear initially tested weakly positive for semen, but further tests were negative for semen.

Britt went on trial in Hillsborough County Circuit Court in May 2004. The victim testified differently from her original account to police. She told the jury that she did not know whether Britt ejaculated inside of her and that he ejaculated only once when she masturbated him. She also said she had a sexual encounter once before, and that was a year prior and she “didn’t let it get to that point.”

The nurse testified to her examination and said that the girl told her she was sexually active. The prosecution presented evidence that after Britt was arrested, he called the girl’s mother and that when she questioned him about the incident he said he “needed help or counseling.” The prosecution argued that he was referring to the assault on the girl, while the defense claimed he was talking about domestic violence counseling.

The jury convicted Britt of all three counts on May 18, 2004 and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

His convictions were upheld by the Florida Appellate Court in 2006.

Britt’s attorney, Charles Murray, who was later joined by the Innocence Project of Florida, began seeking post-conviction DNA testing. In 2010, the prosecution agreed that testing should be conducted. In 2013, DNA tests on the victim’s underwear identified semen and a male profile that came from someone other than Britt. Britt’s DNA was not found in the testing in 2013. The DNA test results suggested that if better testing had been done by the Florida crime lab or if the defense had obtained independent testing prior to Britt’s trial, his conviction could have been avoided.

On September 24, 2013, the prosecution and Britt’s lawyers presented a joint motion to vacate the convictions. The judge vacated the convictions and ordered a new trial, and Britt was released that day on bond. On November 20, 2013, the charges were dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

Exonerations
Truth in Justice