Local News

Judge Drops Murder Charge Against Mentally Retarded Man

Posted October 8, 2007

— A Durham County judge has dismissed charges against a Dorothea Dix patient awaiting trial for 14 years on a murder charge.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson on Monday also ordered that Floyd Lee Brown, 43, of Anson County, be released from custody after a hearing in which defense attorneys argued that Brown's detention was unlawful.

Brown was arrested in 1993 in connection with the beating death of 80-year-old Katherine Lynch, but he was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Authorities have said that Brown confessed to the crime, but his attorneys argued he did not have the mental capacity to do so. Prosecutors maintained that Brown was dangerous and refused to drop the case against him.

"Somehow, it is possible for him to be held until he dies," Hudson said. "To me, it doesn't seem right."

Psychiatrists and a social worker testified Monday that Brown, who has an IQ of 50, should be able to leave Dorothea Dix to stay in a monitored group home and that he was not a threat to society.

Brown will remain at Dorothea Dix until his attorney finds an appropriate group home for him.

"I feel alright. I'm happy," Brown said as he left the courthouse, accompanied by his father and sister. "It's a whole lot better."

Brown's relatives said it always was clear he did not commit the crime.

"The system we looked 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."

Monday's hearing stemmed from a writ of habeas corpus, which is basically a request to free someone and can be heard in any county.

Anson County authorities 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 did not 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, pointing out that the detectives who investigated Lynch's murder later pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges in unrelated cases.

Brown's attorney argued that new evidence suggests that the description of the suspect does not match Brown, and Lynch's actual time of death was several hours before police claim Brown killed her.

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."

Monday's hearing before Hudson marked the first time Brown's case was heard outside of Anson County, located southeast of Charlotte on the South Carolina border.

Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker, who had previously said Brown was "too dangerous" to release, said state law doesn't address how to handle criminal defendants such as Brown, whose mental health can't be improved through treatment.

"There needs to be some look at the mental health system for people like Mr. Brown,"
Parker said. "I'm constantly getting releases from Dorothea Dix who are not competent. We have to dismiss. Then, six months later, they're back in court."

Prosecutors offered Brown a plea deal last year on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, with credit for the time he had spent in state custody.

But Klinkosum said that when he presented the offer to Brown, it was clear he did not understand what was happening.

A judge later agreed when, rejecting a request for a trial, finding that Brown was incapable of assisting with his own defense.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • todd669 Oct 9, 2007

    umm... is it just me or did no one read the part about "no evidence placing the man at the scene of the crime". or the part about the detectives being caught falsifying information in other cases? everybody wants to rant and rave about some murderous retarded man being unleashed on an unsuspecting community. sheesh! i'd say the poor fellow needs protecting from society, not the other way around!

  • blablah Oct 9, 2007

    If any of you would read this guys rap sheet, you would see that he is a threat to society. I hope the group home has maximum security to keep this guy from hurting anyone else. DA Michael Parker is an expert in DV cases and simply refuses to budge on a case that involves this type of abuse. MP has dealt with this guy before, many times.

  • Justin T. Oct 9, 2007

    Circlecity... I disagree with both your premise and your numerous typos.

    The reason black people feel mistreated by the system is justified in many cases. Imagine being prosecuted by law enforcement, jury, and judge that do not share your background.

    Black people are 10% of the population but are strangely 80-90% of those in jail. That would bother me a little bit if I were them.

  • circlecity Oct 9, 2007

    There have been a lot of killing of white people by black people it and the black fell that they are miss treat by being put in prison. But if a white person kills a black person its called a hate crime on black. Its like it is ok to kill whites and wrong to kill black. Its wrong for anyone to die. We need to think of people as people not by color and stop the hate

  • lawdogzwife Oct 9, 2007

    Mentally retarded does not mean that you are unaware of your actions or should not be held accountable.

    Interesting that this crime occured in Anson county, but was reviewed in Durham county by Judge Hudson.....

  • bruiser Oct 9, 2007

    After reading some of these comments, I realize some of you don't know the difference between mentally handicapped and mentally ill. There is a big difference. As far as I can see, this man was mentally handicapped. Does not change what happened 14 years ago, but please get your terms straight. Thank you.

  • KiraAR Oct 9, 2007

    To the posters saying that a murderer has been freed, PLEASE read more about the case.

    The N&O did a feature on this case a few months back. This man was almost certainly innocent, but was made a scapegoat for the crime.

  • friendlylady Oct 9, 2007

    there is so much prejudice on this post until it is sad. They never had evidence to prove this man did any crime. From what was said, the man is retarded and did not understand what was told to him. He never had a trial because of a confession, who to say he confessed. but anyways, I don't think I want to continue visiting here no longer. Good luck all.

  • Yelena Oct 9, 2007

    Several points..

    1) There is a difference between the mentaly ill, and the mentaly retarted. One can be helped with medication, the other is a life long state.

    2) The reason there was no trial, is because he was incompetent to stand trial. The state waited 14 years to see if this man would become, somehow, un-retarted.

    3)This man is not going free. He is going to a monitored group home.

    4)The evidence against this man is unclear at best. The evidence was not properly saved for future trial.

    5) You can not hold a person for 14 years without the benifit of a trial

    I don't know what should be done 14 years ago, but there are some deffinite holes in this case. The bottom line is, they can't prove he killed this woman, and his confesion may not even have come from his mouth. However, this man is not going free, he is going to a group home, where he will be watched. It is not like they are putting him back out on the street with an axe.

  • blessalah Oct 9, 2007

    They will not try him because he is mentally incapable of understanding what the charges are and what he has done. That does not mean he did not do it. What the bleeding heart liberals don't want you to know is that killers are killers no matter how old or smart, they just don't want you to believe they are dangerous if they don't have a certain level of mental capacity. If you take a life it changes you no matter how mentally capable you are, don't be silly people.