DNA clears man who died on death row

By JACKIE HALLIFAX

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearly 11 months after death row inmate Frank Lee Smith died of cancer, DNA has cleared him in the 1985 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl.

The FBI has not written its final report, but Assistant State Attorney Carolyn McCann said she called the bureau to ask about the results earlier this week and “they told me, ‘He has been excluded, he didn’t do it.’ “

McCann, who was not the prosecutor at the trial but represented the state during the appeals, said she was “very upset.”

“Nobody wants to feel like the wrong person was in jail,” she said today. “It’s a bad feeling.”

The family of Shandra Whitehead, who was raped, beaten and choked in her bedroom in Fort Lauderdale in 1985, has been told, McCann said. And the investigation has been reopened.

“We have suspects that the defense has been presenting all along,” she said.

Geoffrey Smith, a lawyer for Smith, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Smith died on death row at age 52. He had spent 14 years on death row.

At the trial, three witnesses testified against him, including the little girl’s mother, who said she saw Smith at the living room window, and a woman who said she saw him in front of the victim’s house just before the murder. But that woman later said the man she saw was someone else.

Smith claimed insanity, but the defense failed and the jury recommended the death penalty.

Before his death, lawyers on both sides of the case were fighting over DNA. McCann said Smith’s lawyers wanted to have his DNA tested but wanted to keep the results to themselves. She said she refused to agree to that.

“My whole point of doing DNA testing was that I thought he was guilty,” McCann said.

Months after Smith’s death, an agreement was worked out, and a vial of Smith’s blood was compared with semen taken from the little girl.

Smith had two other killings on his record. He spent 11 months in a juvenile facility after fatally stabbing a 14-year-old boy at age 13. Five years later, he and another teen-ager shot a man to death during a robbery. Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, but at the time that meant a maximum of 15 years. He was paroled in 1981.

At least nine former death row inmates across the country have been exonerated because of DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based group that has provided legal assistance to prisoners.

Earlier this year, Illinois Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on the death penalty because 13 death row inmates have had their convictions overturned since 1977.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Over half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists were handed walking papers Wednesday, in a wave of layoffs mandated by new owners, Carpenter Media Group.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.