Prosecutor in Caylee case accused of coercing witness
Man convicted of murder wants new trial
ORLANDO, Fla. – A 13-year-old murder conviction is being challenged after a witness said Orlando police and a prosecutor now working on the Casey Anthony case pressured her to identify the shooter.
Benjamin Smith is serving life in prison for killing 15-year-old Glenny Tapley in February 1996 when the teen confronted Smith during a car burglary outside the monster truck show at the Citrus Bowl.
A key witness in the case now says her identification of Smith as the shooter was coerced by now-retired Orlando police Detective Glen Gause and prosecutor Jeff Ashton, who is currently working in Casey Anthony's murder case.
"They knew I wasn't sure, but I ain't going to win with the police officers and the state of Florida, so I did what they wanted me to do, and that was pick him out," Mazzie Jackson Pauldo said.
Judge Bob Leblanc is now being asked to toss Smith's life sentence and order a new trial.
"You're asking me to simply believe that the law enforcement would fabricate and coecrce this witness into a false identification just to get a conviction," Leblanc said last week in court.
"I was under the instructions of the state attorney and Detective Gause. The reason I did it? I did what I was told," said Pauldo, who picked Smith out of both a physical and photo lineup in 1998. She said that only happened after Gause hounded her for more than two years, causing her to lose a job.
"I was frustrated, more scared of anything, at that point, though," she said.
Pauldo also claims that Ashton told her to conceal from the jury the fact that she may have been in line for a $3,000 Crimeline reward.
"I didn't have any information about her having any money," Ashton said.
"Did you threaten to put her in jail if she did not pick Ben Smith out of the lineup?" Local 6 News reporter Tony Pipitone asked.
"No, sir," Ashton said. "She's lying about that. The evidence would indicate she's lying about that."
Pauldo was one of five people taken to the Orlando Police Department to see the physical lineup, and she said the others were coached to choose Smith, who was No. 4 in the lineup.
"The next one who comes back says, 'It's No. 6,' and tells the rest of the crowd, 'It's No. 6.' She doesn't say anything. The next one goes in, comes back out and says, 'No, dummy, it's not No. 6, it's No. 4,' (and) tells everybody, 'Pick 4, everybody pick 4." Pauldo said.
But there were only five people to choose from the lineup, not six, as Pauldo now says.
If Leblanc believes Pauldo's claims are credible and constitute newly discovered evidence, he has to consider if the jury would have likely acquitted Smith it if had heard Pauldo's new testimony. If he decides the jury would have, he must order a new trial.
Leblanc said he would rule within 30 days.
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