Frank Lee Smith

Frank Lee Smith was sentenced to death for the murder of a girl in Broward County in 1987 and was posthumously exonerated in 2001

Frank Lee Smith was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Broward County, Florida. He was convicted on the testimony of three eyewitnesses, who had caught only brief glimpses of the killer. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. Eventually, defense investigators discovered that a serial rapist-murderer lived in the same area. When shown a photograph of the new alternative suspect, one of the original eyewitnesses said he — not Smith — definitely was the person she had seen. The witness said she had been uncertain about Smith's guilt from the beginning, but had succumbed to pressure from friends and police to identify him. When the alternative suspect became known, Smith's attorneys sought DNA testing. However, their client died of pancreatic cancer in January 2000 before the testing was approved. Eleven months later, Smith became the first death row prisoner in history to be posthumously exonerated by DNA. The tests also confirmed the culpability of the alternative suspect in the case. Both Smith and the victim were African American.