Criminal Justice

14 Years, No Trial: Retarded Man Freed

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Relatives expressed relief today after a judge ruled that a retarded North Carolina man who was never tried, yet had been held 14 years in a state mental institution concerning a crime it is doubtful he committed, would be freed.

However it still isn’t clear exactly when Floyd Lee Brown, 43, will be released, reports the Associated Press. He was charged 14 years ago in a robbery-murder case, but never tried because he was ruled incompetent. His relatives say he clearly didn’t commit the crime.

“The system we looked to to protect him just failed. Anybody who looked could see he didn’t do it, but nobody cared,” says Brown’s sister, Frances Staton. “The 14 years are gone. I can’t bring them back. The main thing now is, he’s free.”

However, Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker had a somewhat different perspective.

Previously, he said Brown was “too dangerous” to release, but he now says there’s a systemic inability, under state law, to deal appropriately with such defendants.

“I’m constantly getting releases from Dorothea Dix who are not competent,” said Parker, referring to the mental hospital at which Floyd was held. “We have to dismiss. Then, six months later, they’re back in court.”

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