Settlement means another $1.475 million for Floyd Brown

jneff@newsobserver.com mlocke@newsobserver.comAugust 21, 2013 

Anson County and its insurers paid $1.475 million to Floyd Brown, the mentally disabled man jailed in a psychiatric hospital for 14 years based on a confession that his lawyers said was fabricated by an SBI agent and two county sheriff’s deputies.

When added to a $7.85 million settlement paid by the State Bureau of Investigation and its insurers, Brown has been compensated a total of $9.325 million for the 14 years he spent locked in Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh.

Brown had been charged with the 1993 murder of Katherine Lynch, a retired Anson County school teacher. The only piece of evidence against Brown was a six-page confession that SBI Agent Mark Isley claims to have written down verbatim during a 1993 interrogation. Anson County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Poplin assisted during the interrogation.

Brown’s attorneys called the confession a work of fiction. Doctors and psychologists agreed that its elaborate details were far too advanced for Brown, 49, who has an IQ around 50 and the mental capacity of a 7-year-old.

The Anson County settlement was struck in December. Brown’s attorney, David Rudolf of Charlotte, asked a federal judge to seal the settlement agreement to protect Brown from being “manipulated and taken advantage of by ill-disposed individuals” if the amount of the settlement were known. A federal judge agreed. Following the Anson settlement, Rudolf set up a special trust, which will manage the proceeds from both settlements on Brown’s behalf. The trust will receive about $5 million; the lawyers receive 40 percent of the award plus expenses.

State law requires that all settlements by public agencies be public records. After being contacted by The News & Observer, a lawyer for the Anson County insurer asked that the settlement be opened. A federal judge unsealed it Wednesday afternoon.

Anna Baucom, chairwoman of the Anson County Commissioners, said she had no idea that a settlement had been reached or its amount until contacted by a reporter.

“It’s a sad situation all the way around,” Baucom said. “Nobody wins in this case.”

Anson County paid a $5,000 deductible in the case, according to Sean Perrin, the lawyer for the insurer. Insurance picked up the rest.

In addition to SBI Agent Isley, two Anson County deputies worked the case; Lt. Bud Hutchinson and Poplin. No other evidence connected Brown to the scene. None of the evidence tested at the SBI crime lab linked Brown to the crime scene. Subsequently, Anson sheriff’s deputies lost virtually all of the physical evidence. According to evidence discovered during the lawsuits, neither Isley nor the deputies investigated alternative suspects, including men who had assaulted Lynch two years previously. And none of the deputies nor Isley developed evidence to corroborate Brown’s alleged confession.

In 1998, Poplin and Hutchinson pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges for soliciting and taking bribes from criminal suspects in return for dropping or reducing charges against the suspects.

Soon after his arrest, Brown was declared incompetent to stand trial by doctors at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh. Brown was jailed at Dix until 2007, when Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson freed him after determining that Brown had been unlawfully held and that the confession wasn’t enough to prove he had committed murder. Brown was never brought to trial because he did not have the mental competency necessary to stand trial.

Brown is living full time with a caretaker, learning life skills at programs for the mentally disabled and dealing with health problems. In a recent interview, he said he would like to visit New York City and Washington, D.C.

Neff: 919-829-4516

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