A&E shirks responsibility for episodes that broadcast incorrect information, and spokespeople confess they don't reedit or correct flawed programs beyond stating at a show's end that murder charges were dropped. "We simply film the investigations as they unfold," a spokesperson said. "Every episode states clearly that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty."

"No one cared that my boy was killed, and the cops just rushed it for a damn show."

The preamble has A&E covered legally, perhaps, but ethically? Miami Detective Fernando Bosch admitted under oath in 2011 that he has "play-acted" parts of investigations for The First 48 and couldn't tell upon later viewing which parts were staged and which were real. "Most of [the detectives] do things like that," he said.

More troubling still, the show almost exclusively highlights some of the most impoverished neighborhoods across the nation. Nearly every person charged with murder belongs to the same demographic: young, male, black, urban, poor, and without resources to challenge a television conglomerate like A&E. They all resemble Taiwan Smart.

Taiwan Smart repeatedly said he didn't commit or witness the murders. The cops didn't listen.
Marta Xochilt Perez
Taiwan Smart repeatedly said he didn't commit or witness the murders. The cops didn't listen.
A killer executed Raynathan Ray, 14, and Jonathan Volcy, 18, with single bullets to the backs of their heads.
Courtesy of Joe Klock
A killer executed Raynathan Ray, 14, and Jonathan Volcy, 18, with single bullets to the backs of their heads.

As though constructing a mammoth jigsaw puzzle, Marlene Montaner laid out all of the files on the floor of her Brickell apartment. The documents spilled past the kitchen, through the living room, and into her bedroom. It was afternoon, early 2010. And Montaner had just received most of the police files on Taiwan Smart.

Montaner, a veteran court-appointed defense attorney who's defended dozens of clients charged with murder, knew exactly how to start. First, look for the most damaging evidence: confessions, witness accounts, whether the defendant had possession of the murder weapon. Montaner freely admits that most of her clients have had at least some complicity in their crimes. So as she hopscotched across the documents, she was resigned to believe she'd find the worst.

"But then I was like, 'Wait a second,' " Montaner recalls. "There weren't any confessions or anyone pointing the finger at Taiwan or any direct evidence, and I remember just looking for someone anywhere saying he was the one who did it. You had one witness in which police misrepresented what she said, but that was it." She visited Taiwan the next day. His manner conveyed innocence, but who could be sure? She paid for his polygraph test, and he passed.

That's when she hired a private detective and scrutinized the police investigation. She says they found a "sloppy," "rushed" case that hinged upon a contaminated crime scene and one witness who hadn't seen the murders. Police hadn't arrived at the 77th Street apartment until more than an hour after the murders, and by then, bloody footprints — none of which matched Smart's foot size — inked the cluttered space.

Detectives had also made a big deal of the bullet casings, claiming their presence inside the home refuted Smart's assertion that the shooter had been outside. But it's unclear from the investigation's log whether police ever thoroughly searched the apartment's grassy exterior for additional casings — a vital lapse. According to the logs, police discovered fewer casings than bullet holes, six of which had trajectories leading from the window where Smart claimed the stranger had shot.

But as weeks melted into months and months into years, nothing happened. Sanchez didn't release his lead investigator's report, which is necessary for trial, until after Smart had spent more than a year in prison. (Sanchez later "admitted" to prosecutor Marie Mato that he "dropped the ball" in his delay, according to emails obtained by New Times.)

Smart, awaiting trial and convinced he'd never be free, was transferred to the Miami-Dade Stockade. "Everyone in there was like, 'Man, you in here for two murders? It don't matter if you did it or not, you ain't ever getting out,' " Smart remembers. "There were guys in there who'd been charged with murder like me, and they'd been waiting for trial for seven years."

Then, as depression threatened to swallow the youth, serendipity struck. Within the stockade are sprawling cells that house dozens of men at a time, and inside Smart's, a new inmate named Arsenio Carter had just arrived.

Twenty-one-year-old Carter was nearly as tall as Smart and possessed black, serious eyes lost among a wild tangle of dreadlocks. Police had charged him with holding up a Starbucks near the University of Miami's campus. (Those allegations were later dropped.)

Day after day, Carter eyed Smart. "Aren't you the guy who's in jail for those two Little Haiti murders?" Carter asked Smart, according to court records filed in Smart's defense. From that moment, a tension grew between the two young men. Carter allegedly taunted Smart in front of other inmates and derided him behind his back.

On January 11, Carter took aside inmate Earnest Evans, 20, whom he knew from the outside. "I have a secret to tell you," Carter said, according to Evans' later testimony. "But you can't tell anyone or you'll have an enemy for life." Carter motioned at Smart. "I let that fuck nigger get away," Evans alleged Carter said. "I went to rob [his apartment], and he got away, but I killed two other dudes that was there."

Evans said Carter detailed that night with great specificity: "My friend pretended to buy drugs while I crouched behind the window. When he had the attention of the guy at the window, I sprung up and fired some shots into the house. I seen one of the guys leave." Carter said he pointed the gun at one of the two men remaining inside the apartment, telling him to open the front door.

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I have fond memories of this neighborhood before the street trash took over. My grandmother lived on the block of 79th & Biscayne Blvd. back in the 70's.

Bottom line, it's the TV show's fault for street trash committing murder and for an under staffed homicide department pressured to close cases. Geniuses! All you NIMBY's cracked the case. Your prize? A challenge. I challenge you to move into this neighborhood, become a communist...uh hum...I mean..."community orgranizer" and work to "change" this neighborhood. 

frankd4 topcommenter

.......................not that a DRUG ADDICTED "witness" won't rat out whomever is convenient and give FALSE testimony against someone just to get their own a$$ out of trouble - the police simply have pressure to bring someone in to be charged for the crime = period

frankd4 topcommenter

.............................from my general observation of police investigations historically the problem is the theory that even IF the wrong guy gets the sentence that guy was going to EVENTUALLY do something to put him in jail anyway..........so whatever the evidence shows for any particular crime as long as someone gets convicted and put away the streets are safer and the community can rest comfortably knowing the criminals are being locked away...........so fifty years later we can now look back and see this got us deeper into it = period

frankd4 topcommenter

...........................the show doesn't "imprison" anyone, either innocent or guilty,  it just video tapes and then airs the events = period

the judicial system IMPRISONs, defendants as represented by their counsel, who lose their trials and hearings in front of a jury and or judge and the court process determines who get IMPRISONed = period

to blame the show for bad police investigations or errors in the justice system or just poverty and drugs and dishonest people involved in a very bad situation isn't because of a show - it happens all the time with or without TV cameras


@frankd4Your missing the point of the article.  Its the fact that they RUSHED the investigations and forced the evidence to conform to what the idea they had in the show in order to put the wrong guy in prison, or shoot up the wrong house in the sake of "good tv".

frankd4 topcommenter

......................coincidental and circumstantial JUST like the evidence and processing of the crime IN WHICH CASE the verdict should have been appealed by the defendants attorney and errors made continue to be made with or without TV cameras (the BEST example is when a BLACK harvard professor was arrested in boston for "breaking into" his own house despite the boston police having the professor positively identified and his story corroborated and verified by HARVARD)

it was the judge who decided on the sentence AND it was the commander who picked the wrong house - with or without TV rushing them

frankd4 topcommenter

@smdrpepper @frankd4 

...................i agree he wasn't going to be represented by an OJ-caliber "dream team" but he did get his "day" in court (and eventually was acquitted and released) = but my observation is that his problems weren't because of a TV show = period = they are because he is BLACK and haitian and poor and in a very bad community of drugs and criminals and bad people


@frankd4And I doubt this kid could even dream of affording an good attorney to fight this.  At best he had a public defender which likely did not remember his name.

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