Man Held Without Trial for 14 Years

Floyd Brown's psychiatrists in Dorothea Dix Hospital say he can't tell time or the difference between right and left. He has trouble handling money, naming the day of the week or remembering the name of the mental institution where he has been held against his will for the last 14 years.

But, according to his regular psychiatric reports, family members and lawyers, the 43-year-old has been consistent about two things as the years have passed: He didn't kill Katherine Lynch 14 years ago and he wants to go home.

Brown, who is mentally retarded, is stuck in what his lawyers call a "cruel legal limbo." He has been locked up without trial in Dorothea Dix, in Raleigh, N.C., since his arrest, charged with a murder he says he did not commit.

Because he can't understand the legal process, Brown can't be brought to trial and the evidence against him can't be tested in front of a jury. Prosecutors have said Brown is dangerous and refuse to release him.

But an ABC News review of Brown's court, psychiatric and school records and interviews with his family, attorneys and some of the police officers involved in his case raise questions about Brown's guilt.

His case is one of dozens found by ABC News in which suspects found mentally incompetent to stand trial were held in custody for more than a year. The Supreme Court has said the government can hold incompetent defendants for a "reasonable" amount of time and give them medical treatment to become capable of standing trial, but has not clarified when that detention becomes illegal.

Though many states limit the maximum length of detention, some do not, particularly in violent felony cases. Others allow suspects to be held up to the maximum term of imprisonment for the charged crime. Those laws raise the possibility that criminal suspects may remain in state mental homes for years, despite questions about their guilt.

In Brown's case, there were no known witnesses to Lynch's murder and no physical evidence linked Brown to her death. Much of the physical evidence in the case, which could potentially prove Brown's guilt or innocence, has disappeared.

Confession

The only evidence against Brown, investigators who worked on his case and spoke to ABC News acknowledge, is a confession given after he signed away his constitutional rights in a scrawl, "FLOYD OBWN." But at least three forensic psychiatrists and several of Brown's former special education teachers say the words in the confession are not those of a man with the IQ of a 6-year-old.

"That's not his language," state forensic psychiatrist Bob Rollins said of the confession. "That's not Mr. Brown."

A state psychological exam taken five days after the confession said Brown wasn't mentally capable of waiving his Miranda rights when he spoke to police. Two of the officers who investigated his case have since served jail time on unrelated federal racketeering charges. Court records show the cops extorted cash from suspects in exchange for not filing charges against them.

According to Brown's lawyers, prosecutors last year offered Brown what is known as an Alford plea — meaning he would admit there was enough evidence to convict him, while still maintaining his innocence — but Brown couldn't accept the deal because he could not understand it.

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