Carter allegedly said that once inside the apartment, he asked if there were "any drugs or money in the house. They didn't respond," he whispered. "So I laid them on the floor, and I shot them."

Evans was nervous. Burdened with this knowledge, he confided in a fellow inmate, Herbert Jackson. Jackson later testified that Evans came to him and said, "Fuck it, I'm just going to tell you. You know the two bodies Taiwan is in here for? Arsenio just told me he did it!"

As days passed, Smart gradually grew suspicious of Carter. He seemed to know too much about the murders. Carter once referenced a homemade bong inside the apartment that only Smart and his dead roommates would have known existed.

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.


Their petty arguments ballooned into heated confrontations. One day, Smart commented that a woman on TV was "ugly."

"Your girlfriend's ugly," Carter told him. "Your ho's ugly."

Both men rose and approached each other. A crowd swelled around them, murmuring.

Evans, who hadn't heard the beginnings of the fight, appeared. He assumed the argument involved the murders and asked, "You told him?"

Smart turned. "Told me what?" he asked. "Told me what?" Eyes suddenly electric, he looked at Carter.

"You know too much!" he yelled. "I know you killed my friends!"

Smart charged Carter and slammed him to the concrete floor. Bellows erupted inside the stockade. Carter wriggled free and pounded on the guard's gate and was eventually reassigned to a different cell, prison records show.

Smart didn't know what to do. Jailhouse informants are notoriously unreliable. But neither Evans nor Jackson sought shorter sentences in exchange for their depositions, so Smart's attorney quickly interviewed them and shipped their statements to prosecutors. On June 6, 2011, Smart took two separate state-sponsored polygraph tests. An expert hammered him with questions for hours. Ultimately, "Smart denied any involvement, and it was the opinion of [the expert] that he was being truthful," according to prosecutor Mato's closeout memo.

Prosecutors summoned Detective Sanchez and told him what had happened. Nearly two years after Sanchez had called Smart a "fucking liar," Sanchez now "agreed [the state] could not prove their case, and it appeared Taiwan Smart was not the shooter," Mato wrote.

Sanchez was not reprimanded for his work on the case, though this wasn't the first time he may have rushed to judgment, his internal affairs file shows. In 2007, Sanchez had arrested philanthropist Lucinda Munoz, 58, at Bank of America after she tried to cash a bad check for $3,506 that an eBay customer had sent her. Munoz was jailed for one night and charged with forgery and grand theft — allegations dropped a month later. "Apparently, Sanchez takes the experience of being thrown in jail and charged with a major felony lightly," Munoz's unsustained complaint says.

The Miami Police Department has not apologized to Smart. A&E has continued to broadcast its First 48 episode featuring Smart. And Carter, who's since been released from prison, hasn't been seriously investigated by any other agency for his possible connection to the murders.

Taiwan Smart, now 26 and head-shaven, untangles his long legs from inside a battered Volkswagen Passat and declares he doesn't want to stay long. The car has just pulled up before a small, five-unit apartment complex in the shape of a bowling alley. "I feel like this is where my life ended," he says, walking toward the back of the building, where his friends had been shot. "I should have died that night, and I wish I had. If I had, I wouldn't have to deal with this."

"This" is Smart's life today. In the two years since his release from prison, Smart's luck hasn't turned. With a pair of murder charges on his record, he's struggled to find work or an apartment. He spent months living in a small motel room with his mom, uncle, girlfriend, and two siblings — while supporting them with a $6.09 hourly wage he makes cleaning cars at the Busy Bee off Biscayne Boulevard. Now he and his family live in a claustrophobic apartment where they have neither kitchen sink nor stove, and the electricity flickers on and off.

Meanwhile, The First 48 has arrived at season 13, and even today, nearly 1.4 million people tune in for some airings. But this season, the program hasn't featured Miami, though producers call it the "face" of the show. Last year, Police Chief Manuel Orosa asked producers to donate $10,000 per episode to a local youth sports program that works with at-risk children, but producers declined. So The First 48, which doesn't compensate police departments in any way, left Miami and now films in Broward County, Houston, Cleveland, and Dallas. (Memphis and Detroit have also discontinued their relationships with the show.)

The families of the murdered never see a dime of the show's profits. "No one cared that my boy was killed, and the cops just rushed it for a damn show," says Clyde Ray, the stooped father of Smart's murdered 14-year-old roommate. "Everyone was a victim in this. Them boys killed, that boy who spent two years in prison for it."

At least Smart can still defend himself. Put in touch with attorney Joe Klock, who's taken the case pro bono, Smart has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Miami for false arrest and imprisonment. "Despite the police questioning of Taiwan for 15 consecutive hours," the lawsuit says, "and his pleas of innocence and his factual accounts, police were only concerned with closing the book on the crime within 48 hours to captivate the public with the expeditious crime-solving... It intentionally placed Taiwan as a remote second in importance to the pursuit of the First 48 marquee."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help

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 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 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.