A man convicted of robbing a South Florida drugstore 16 years ago will be set free thanks to an unlikely ally in the prosecutor who convinced jurors to find him guilty.
The Broward State Attorney's Office new Conviction Review Unit asked Broward County Circuit Judge John J. Murphy III to release Leonard Cure, 50, from prison.
Murphy agreed Tuesday morning to modify Cure's sentence, though the exact timing of his release wasn't immediately clear, according to court records.
“This is the right thing to do,” said State Attorney Mike Satz, who formed the review unit last August.
There are a number of issues with the case, including how Cure was identified, the reliability of the eyewitnesses and an alibi that jurors never heard, prosecutors said.
Cure was accused of forcing his way into a Walgreens in November 2003, armed with a hand gun. The victims, an employee and a manager, disagreed on how certain they were that Cure was the suspect. A Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, who has since died, testified that she saw Cure in the area that day, walking a child to school.
A jury in 2004 deadlocked on the charges. but a second jury found Cure guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison because he was a habitual offender, with previous convictions of robbery, cocaine possession and grand theft auto, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Assistant State Attorney Arielle Demby Berger, who leads the review unit, noted in her review that the original prosecutor was willing to negotiate a seven-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea after the first trial.
She is questioning how Cure was even identified as the suspect.
“Seemingly a man who had no connection to a Walgreens robbery became the main suspect after someone reviewed photos of well-dressed/neat appearing African-American males,” she wrote.
Also in question is what time Cure arrived at work that morning. He had a receipt showing he was at an ATM at 6:52 a.m., 3.2 miles away from the crime scene. He arrived at work before 8 a.m.
The robbery took place between 7:15 and 7:24 a.m., according to records.
Cure’s construction co-workers were not identified in time for the trial, and the jury didn’t believe the account of the ATM visit, said Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes, who represented Cure at his original trial.
Weekes, the original prosecutor, said he's gratified to hear the Broward prosecutors’ decision.
“It really moved me on a personal and professional level,” said Weekes, who attended junior high school with Cure and long considered the conviction unjust. “This is one of those people who really deserves an opportunity to see justice done.”