FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A man serving a life sentence for a 2003 armed robbery and armed aggravated assault in Dania Beach has been freed while his case can be reviewed further.
A judge on Tuesday signed an order that had been agreed upon by the Broward State Attorney’s Office and defense attorneys. Leonard Cure, 50, was then released from the Sumter Correctional Institution in Bushnell shortly thereafter, a spokeswoman from the state attorney’s office confirmed.
Cure had been found guilty of robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm by a Broward jury. Because he was classified as a habitual felony offender, he was sentenced to life in state prison on Nov. 3, 2004.
But the Broward State Attorney’s Office recommended that he should be released “while prosecutors complete a more extensive reexamination of his case.”
A court hearing over Zoom was scheduled for Tuesday with Broward Circuit Judge John J. Murphy III, who signed the order that Cure be released on time served.
That recommendation stemmed from the state attorney’s office’s conviction review unit, which was launched last year to “formalize the Broward State Attorney’s Office’s long-term practice of reviewing and investigating claims of innocence.”
“After considering the facts and circumstances of this case, it is our conclusion that it is in the best interest of justice to release Mr. Cure as soon as possible,” Assistant State Attorney Arielle Demby Berger, who leads that review unit, said in a statement. “This will allow him to be released while we can thoroughly review his case.”
“This is the right thing to do,” added Broward State Attorney Mike Satz.
Cure was convicted of stealing $1,700 in cash from two employees of a Walgreen’s store in Dania Beach on Nov. 10, 2003 (Case Number: 03-019405CF10A).
A memo written by Berger reads in part:
“The issues we find most troublesome are those surrounding how Cure became a suspect in the first place. Seemingly, a man who had no connection to a Walgreen’s robbery became the main suspect after someone reviewed photos of well-dressed/neat-appearing African-American males. That was it, there was no physical evidence, no witnesses who knew him, nothing but an alleged search in the questionable ‘TRAP’ Program. The case became questionable at the very onset. If the identification was bad, then everything that comes after is bad as well.
"The original prosecutor also saw the weaknesses in this case. Once one of the two victims had a difficult time identifying Cure in the lineup and after the first jury came back hung, he offered a below guidelines sentence of 7 years. Cure has now served significantly more time than that, over 16 years. After the hung jury, he continued to maintain his innocence. A second jury convicted him and he was then sentenced by the Judge [Fred Berman] to life in prison.
"After considering all the facts and circumstances of this case, it is our conclusion that it is in the best interest of justice to release Cure as soon as possible. We would like to modify his sentence and give time served for his 16 years plus in Florida State Prison. This will allow for the defendant to be released after serving a significant amount of time while we can thoroughly review his case for a potential exoneration.”