October 8, 2007
Judge Releases Floyd Brown
Possibly Innocent False Confessor who spent last 14 years in a state mental hospital without a trial
By Estes Thompson
The Associated Press
A judge on Monday dismissed murder and robbery charges first filed in 1993 against a mentally retarded defendant, ordering his release from a state hospital after 14 years in custody without a trial.
Floyd Brown, a 43-year-old Anson County man with an IQ of 50, was charged in the robbery and beating death of 80-year-old Katherine Lynch in 1993. He was found at the time to be incompetent to stand trial, and has remained in state custody at Dorothea Dix Hospital ever since as prosecutors refused to drop the case against him.
“Somehow, it is possible for him to be held until he dies,” said Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. “To me, it doesn’t seem right.”
It was not immediately clear when Brown would be released. His relatives said it always was clear he didn’t commit the crime.
“The system we looked to to protect him just failed. Anybody who looked could see he didn’t do it, but nobody cared,” said Brown’s sister, Frances Staton. “The 14 years are gone. I can’t bring them back. The main thing now is, he’s free.”
The Anson County Sheriff’s Office has said Brown confessed to using a walking stick to beat Lynch in her home, just down the street in Wadesboro from the house he shared with his mother. In the confession, Brown said he struck Lynch five times after she refused his request for a dollar, telling Brown she didn’t have any money to give him.
But his attorneys challenged the validity of the confession, calling a pair of expert witnesses Monday who said the flowing narrative language of the typewritten document that Brown signed didn’t match his halting speech.
“His speech is marked by being very repetitive,” said Dr. Mark Hazelrig, a forensic psychologist at Dorothea Dix.
The defense also attacked other elements of the prosecution’s case. The detectives who investigated Lynch’s murder later pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in unrelated cases. Dave Cloutier, an expert in evidence and a retired state Department of Justice instructor, testified Monday that much of the evidence had been lost, including the walking stick.
He also said there was no evidence that Brown had ever been inside Lynch’s house.
“Floyd Lee Brown would not be in Dorothea Dix if it were not for a bogus confession and evidence that has vanished from the Anson County sheriff’s office,” his attorney, Mike Klinkosum, told Hudson. “Mr. Brown has fallen into a statutory black hole.”