Thursday, July 4, 2024

Man Fatally Shot by Police Three Years After Release from 16-Year Wrongful Imprisonment

Man Fatally Shot by Police Three Years After Release from 16-Year Wrongful Imprisonment 

Leonard Cure spent 16 years imprisoned in Florida after being wrongfully convicted of armed robbery in 2004. Since his release three years ago, he has been trying to rebuild his life, delivering inspirational talks to high school students, working as a security guard, and contemplating college at the age of 53 after purchasing a home.

However, his life was cut short when a Georgia sheriff’s deputy pulled him over on Interstate 95, just north of the Florida line, on Monday. Authorities reported that Cure was speeding over 90 mph (145 kph) and was to be arrested for reckless driving. Instead of going to jail, Cure ended up dead.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Cure complied until he was informed he was under arrest. The GBI stated that the deputy tased Cure when he did not follow commands, after which Cure allegedly assaulted the deputy. The deputy then used the Taser again, along with a baton, before shooting Cure. The incident was captured on the deputy’s body camera and patrol car dash camera. The footage, the officer’s statement, and other evidence will be reviewed before the GBI submits its findings to prosecutors, according to Stacy Carson, the GBI agent leading the investigation.

Studies indicate that Black Americans face a disproportionate risk of wrongful convictions and fatal encounters with police. Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, noted the intense anxiety experienced by those freed after wrongful imprisonment. Miller, who assisted in Cure's exoneration, said many exonerees live with a persistent fear of being re-incarcerated.

Miller explained that Cure was traveling to his new home outside Atlanta after visiting his ill mother when he was stopped. Just two weeks prior, Cure had shared his story with high school students at an Innocence Project event in Georgia. “Lenny was a good soul, cared about people,” Miller said. “He was getting his life back together.” Florida prosecutors, who had maintained contact with Cure after his release, were equally shocked by the incident. Cure was the first person exonerated by the Conviction Review Unit of Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor.

“The Leonard we knew was a smart, funny, and kind person,” Pryor said. “He had been working in security, hoping to go to college, and wanted to work in broadcast radio production.” Many details surrounding the shooting remain undisclosed. Camden County Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Bruce stated that Cure was initially reluctant to exit his vehicle but complied after multiple requests. The situation escalated when Cure resisted handcuffing, leading to a violent confrontation, according to Bruce.

The GBI described Cure’s actions as an assault on the deputy following the use of a stun gun. Authorities have not released the deputy’s name, who has been placed on administrative leave. Carson confirmed that the deputy was a white man. Black Americans have been nearly three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white Americans over the past decade, according to the Mapping Police Violence project. Additionally, the Equal Justice Initiative reported last year that Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted compared to white people, based on a review of 3,200 exonerations since 1989.

Cure had been sentenced to life in prison for a 2003 armed robbery in Dania Beach, Florida. His conviction came after a second trial following a deadlocked jury in the first. In 2020, Broward’s Conviction Review Unit secured his release, presenting solid alibis and highlighting the lack of physical evidence or credible witnesses against him.

Cure was freed in April 2020, and his conviction was vacated a few months later. In August 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill granting Cure $817,000 in compensation, along with educational benefits. Dr. Joshua Golden, a dentist in suburban Fort Lauderdale, recalled replacing Cure’s front teeth in 2021. Despite his long imprisonment, Cure remained upbeat and showed no signs of bitterness.

“He was a really upbeat guy and excited,” Golden said. “There were no signs when he came to our office of any anger or any rage. He was happy to be out.” However, the fear of re-incarceration lingers for many exonerees. Christopher Ochoa, who spent 12 years in a Texas prison for a wrongful murder conviction, still experiences anxiety when dealing with police, even after 21 years of freedom and a successful career in law.

Man Gets Killed By Police Just 3 Years After Being Released From A 16 Year Wrongful Conviction

Ochoa recounted an incident a year after his release when he was pulled over by police. Although quickly cleared, the experience left him deeply shaken. “My girlfriend couldn’t understand why I was so shook up if I hadn’t done anything. Well, the last time I didn’t do anything, and I did 12 years in prison,” Ochoa said. He emphasized the importance of remaining calm and compliant in any interaction with police. “I just have to keep in mind not to say anything, not to rock the boat,” Ochoa said.


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