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      Broward homicide investigator at center of DNA controversy
                     BY WANDA J. DeMARZO

                     Since December when it was announced that DNA evidence
                     had posthumously cleared a Broward County man who had
                     died of cancer on Death Row, the Broward Sheriff's Office's
                     homicide unit has come under intense scrutiny.

                     The spotlight has focused on Richard Scheff, a veteran
                     homicide investigator and former head of the unit who is
                     accused of lying on the witness stand about the case he
                     built against Frank Lee Smith.

                     Meanwhile, several defense attorneys have questioned
                     whether, in light of the Smith case, Scheff and the homicide
                     unit he led might have built cases based on coerced
                     confessions and shaky eyewitness testimony.

                     Scheff, who began as a patrol officer and rose to become the
                     leader of BSO's internal affairs unit, was shifted to an
                     administrative job recently while a special prosecutor
                     investigates the allegation of perjury.

                     Sheriff's officials contend that, apart from the Smith case, no
                     one has presented them with any formal accusations
                     against Scheff or the homicide squad.

                     ``If someone has a concern or allegations about the way we
                     do business, they should bring it to our attention. The sheriff
                     wants to know about that,'' said Cheryl Stopnick, BSO

                     Scheff declined to be interviewed.

                     In the wake of the Frank Lee Smith controversy, Sheriff Ken
                     Jenne has called for DNA tests to be performed on seven
                     inmates, six of them on Death Row. Of the seven inmates,
                     Scheff was the detective assigned to two of the cases:
                     Lancelot Armstrong and Michael Rivera, and the supervisor
                     on two others: Dwayne Parker and Lewis Lawrence. Scheff
                     headed the unit when one of the inmates, Robert Consalvo,
                     was charged with murder.

                     The six men are the only current Death Row inmates that
                     BSO investigated.

                     NEW CHALLENGE

                     The agency's critics say the BSO effort rings hollow.

                     ``Police can't police police,'' said Terry Backus, a Death Row
                     attorney representing Lancelot Armstrong, whose case is
                     now under BSO review.

                     The newest challenge to a BSO murder conviction comes in
                     the case of Michael Rivera, sentenced to death in 1987 for
                     the murder of Staci Jazvac. His attorneys claim the
                     conviction rested on statements Scheff testified to that were
                     taken out of context and implied Rivera's guilt in the murder,
                     and the testimony of a jailhouse snitch.

                     ``There was nothing to tie [Rivera] to it except his supposed
                     statement,'' said Marty McClain, a Death Row attorney
                     representing Rivera. ``It all depended on Scheff and his
                     partner's testimony, on whether you believe them or not. The
                     only physical evidence was a hair follicle that a BSO
                     forensics examiner concluded was consistent with Staci's
                     known hair.''

                     McClain says the Rivera case shows a pattern typical of
                     several controversial BSO murder convictions: It rests largely
                     on a confession obtained by Scheff's homicide squad.

                     The Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, a group of public
                     defenders located in Tampa, Tallahassee and Fort
                     Lauderdale representing Death Row inmates, filed two
                     motions in Broward County Circuit Court on Wednesday
                     asking the state to reveal all evidence it has on Rivera. The
                     group, represented by McClain, also seeks any information
                     discovered by the state that would impeach Scheff's
                     testimony in Rivera's trial and DNA testing on the hair

                     HAIR FOLLICLE

                     DNA testing would prove conclusively if the hair follicle found
                     in a van that Rivera was known to use really came from
                     Jazvac, McClain said. At the center of the legal skirmish is
                     Scheff, a man who earned a reputation for cracking the
                     tough cases during his two-decade rise in the BSO.

                     Several high-profile cases involving Scheff are now being

                        Frank Lee Smith was sent to die in prison for the murder
                     of 8-year-old Shandra Whitehead after an eyewitness in the
                     1985 murder case testified at two appeal hearings that
                     Scheff had pressured her to identify Smith while never
                     bothering to show her a photo of Eddie Lee Mosley, accused
                     of rape and murder, who roamed the same northwest Fort
                     Lauderdale neighborhood where the young girl was raped
                     and killed.

                     That testimony is now being investigated by a special
                     prosecutor appointed by the governor, at the request of
                     Broward State Attorney Michael Satz.

                     Smith was exonerated last year after he died of cancer in

                        Peter Dallas, Stephen Rosati and Peter Roussonicolos
                     were indicted in September 1990 and charged with the
                     murder of Joseph Viscido Jr. of Deerfield Beach. BSO's
                     homicide unit took over the 4-year-old murder case from
                     Deerfield Beach in 1990 and within four months they thought
                     they had their killers. Dallas confessed to the killing and
                     implicated Rosati and Roussonicolos. Scheff and lead
                     detective Steven Wiley interviewed an eyewitness who later
                     said she was harassed by the detectives into identifying
                     Dallas from a photo lineup.

                     Scheff and Wiley presented the case to the state attorney's
                     office, which led to the indictment of Dallas, Roussonicolos
                     and Rosati. The trio spent almost two years in jail.

                     But the case dissolved after a former Florida Department of
                     Law Enforcement special agent, Michael Breece, came
                     forward with new evidence implicating two other men in the
                     Viscido murder.

                     ``I can see protecting your case and the credibility of your
                     case is very important, but there comes a time when you
                     have to say, `Hey, something's wrong here and we need to
                     look at it,' '' Breece said. ``But BSO didn't want to do that.''
                     The Broward County state attorney's office asked for a
                     special prosecutor to investigate the new evidence. Dallas,
                     Rosati and Roussonicolos were freed.

                        Timothy Brown and Keith King were convicted for the 1990
                     murder of Deputy Patrick Behan in Pembroke Park. Brown
                     was 14 at the time of the murder; King was 17. Attorneys for
                     Brown maintain their client's confession was coerced. Brown
                     was convicted Oct. 21, 1993, and sentenced to life in prison
                     without the chance of parole. King was sentenced to 15
                     years and was released in December 1999.

                     Federal public defenders for Brown have filed a petition in
                     Miami seeking a new trial, alleging Brown's confession was
                     coerced, that he waived his Miranda rights against
                     self-incrimination without understanding them, and that
                     Brown's mother was not allowed to speak with her son
                     during his interrogation. Scheff testified at a subsequent
                     court hearing that Brown's mother, Othalean Brown, did not
                     want to see her son during his interrogation. Othalean Brown
                     says she asked to see her son, but was told by Scheff that
                     ``he had been moved elsewhere.''

                        Michael Rivera was sentenced to death in May 1987 for
                     the murder of 11-year-old Staci Jazvac. The Rivera case is
                     another where attorneys contend a conviction was obtained
                     with an implied confession and the testimony of a jailhouse
                     snitch. While awaiting trial for the murder of Jazvac, Rivera
                     was convicted and sentenced to life for the kidnapping and
                     attempted murder of an 11-year-old Coral Springs girl. The
                     11-year-old gave a poised demonstration of the attack for the
                     jury, pausing only when asked to identify Rivera as her
                     assailant -- she could not. Rivera is on Death Row pending
                     an appeal.

                     Richard Scheff joined the Broward Sheriff's Office in 1980 at
                     the age of 29. He was the oldest cadet in his class at the
                     South Florida Criminal Justice Department. As a young
                     man, Scheff owned a company that installed alarms in
                     homes and businesses. But he said another career kept
                     calling him.

                     ``When you're a kid, you want to be a police officer, a jet
                     pilot or an Indian chief,'' Scheff told The Herald in a 1998

                     ``I never quite got over the desire to be a police officer.''

                     His personnel file is brimming with commendations,
                     including Deputy of the Month for his ``outstanding
                     performance'' in the Frank Lee Smith case and a letter
                     congratulating Scheff and the homicide unit on their
                     exceptional rate of cleared cases.

                     Scheff was a detective with the homicide unit from 1983 to
                     1985. He then was promoted to sergeant and supervised the
                     unit from September 1986 to January 1990. Then, promoted
                     again, he headed the unit until 1993. Another promotion put
                     Scheff in charge of the criminal investigation unit, which
                     oversees all major crimes, robbery, homicide, sexual
                     assaults, until 1997.

                     Sheriff's officials say they don't know enough about Scheff's
                     casework to determine his exact role in each investigation,
                     how ``hands on,'' Scheff was.

                     ``The direct supervisor for the detectives in the homicide unit
                     is the sergeant and he is responsible for the day-to-day
                     operations and the overseeing of the detectives and their
                     cases,'' said Jim Leljedal, BSO spokesman, describing the
                     job Scheff held in general terms.

                     JUGGLING CASES

                     ``The sergeant is aware of the cases his unit is handling and
                     what each of his detectives is doing in each homicide

                     The homicide unit now comprises eight to nine detectives
                     led by two sergeants. Ten to 15 years ago, when Scheff
                     directly oversaw the unit, the homicide squad typically had
                     six to eight detectives with only one sergeant, Leljedal said.
                     Each detective handles two to three cases at any one time.

                     Breece concurs that juggling several homicide investigations
                     simultaneously makes it difficult for detectives to devote a
                    great deal of time to any one case, sometimes forcing them
                     to act quickly.

                     ``There is no better feeling for a law enforcement officer than
                     to know he did things right and got a good conviction,''
                     Breece said.

                     ``The Peter Dallas case was one of the highlights of my
                     career and one of the lowest, because no one wanted to
                     admit they had made a mistake and ended up making it
                     personal by attacking me and my credibility.''

                     Herald staff writer Daniel de Vise contributed to this report.
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