The Wrongful Conviction of Anthony Broom
Anthony’s trial began on November 30, 1981 and lasted 4 days. During the trial, the 12 person jury heard testimony from Charlotte’s family and friends. They testified to Charlotte’s actions the day of her death as well as to her overall character and relationships. (Go to “Testimony of Charlotte’s relatives and friends”) Additionally, several officers from the Winter Haven, Florida police department testified at trial. The officers testified to the time of the morning they were called to the scene, what they saw when they arrived on the scene and their thought processes as to what may have happened that night. Additionally, the first responding officers testified about the appearance of the room and how evidence was handled and/or mishandled at the scene. (Go to “Testimony of first responders”) The lead detective on the case, Sandra Woodard with the Winter Haven Police Department also testified. Since Detective Woodard had admitted to fabricating her Arrest Report/Affidavit at Anthony’s bond reduction hearing, this was not allowed to come in at trial. Detective Woodard testified at the trial regarding how evidence was handled, what evidence she deemed important to test and to her observations of the room that night. (Go to Testimony of the lead Detective)
Finally, a firearms expert and the medical examiner testified. The medical examiner testified as to his findings at the autopsy. The medical examiner had examined over 100 deaths by gunshot wound. He explained that there was stippling on the deceased’s left hand during his examination. He also explained how he did not have enough evidence based on the police reports and the body, itself, to determine how the deceased died. It was clear that Charlotte died from a gunshot wound to the head, but how, was undetermined. (Go to read “Autopsy”) The firearms expert testified as to the specifics of the gun, which was found at the scene, including how it operates, how it was removed from the scene and whether or not it was in a safe operating condition. He further testified about the trigger pull and that this particular gun had a lighter than normal trigger pull. He testified how best to collect evidence from a weapon recently fired in someone’s hand. (Go to “Testimony of Firearm’s expert”)
At the conclusion of the State’s case, Attorney Richard Barest, Anthony’s defense attorney, motioned for a directed verdict in favor of the defendant. He argued that the State had not met their burden of proof. In fact, the State had not proved that a homicide had occurred. The corpus delicti had not been established, since the State could not prove that Charlotte died by someone else’s hand. There was no evidence of Anthony ever firing the weapon nor that he was in the room at the time the weapon was discharged. The medical examiner could not even help the State’s case, as he testified the cause of death was undetermined. The only evidence of anyone firing a weapon was the powder burns on the back of the deceased’s own hand. Unfortunately, the judge denied the motion for a directed verdict and said the jury would decide.
In a criminal trial, in order to find someone guilty of a crime, you must believe beyond a reasonable doubt in that person’s guilt. Anthony was found guilty of second degree murder by a 12 person jury. The elements of second degree murder are as follows:
- The victim is dead – the State proved this;
- The death was caused by the criminal act or agency of another – The State produced no evidence of anyone killing Charlotte other than herself.
- And that the killing by another was done with a depraved mind regardless of human life – the State produced no evidence of an argument or fight.
Anthony’s conviction was based on testimony from Charlotte’s relatives and friends, along with the fact that she died in his hotel room. There was no physical evidence on Charlotte or the gun, which pointed to Anthony as being responsible for this fatal gunshot. There was no evidence presented that Anthony was even present in the room at the time of the fatal gunshot.
Based on what the jury heard, do you believe Anthony is responsible for Charlotte’s death?
Testimony of Charlotte’s Relatives and Friends -
Mary Prochaska was a friend of Charlotte’s. She and Charlotte went out together the night of Charlotte’s death. Mary knew that Charlotte was seeing two men at once, Hershel Davis and Anthony Broom. Mary testified that when she and Charlotte were out the night that Charlotte was shot, they had a couple of drinks at a few bars and then went to a friend’s house for dinner. After that they returned to a bar for another drink or two. Charlotte dropped Mary off at her house around 1:15 a.m. on the morning of June 24, 1981. Mary testified that Charlotte was upset when she dropped her off and that they discussed the fact that Charlotte was upset. What exactly was discussed was not admissible in the trial, and therefore, we do not know why Charlotte was upset.
Hershel Davis was seeing Charlotte for approximately 8 months at the time of her death. Hershel testified that he was aware that Charlotte was also seeing Anthony.
Carrie Van Trump is Charlotte’s mother. At the time of Charlotte’s death, she was living with Charlotte in Florida. Carrie testified that Charlotte left the house to meet up with Mary around 7:45 p.m., the night of the 23rd. Carrie testified that as she left the house that night she walked with her head down and said “I will see you later, mom”. Around 1:50 a.m. that night, Carrie testified that Anthony called the house looking for Charlotte. When Carrie told him she did not believe she was home, he apologized for waking her and hung up. Then around 5:50 a.m. Anthony called again and asked to speak to Charlotte’s sister, Ora Lee. Carrie remained on the line. He wasn’t talking clearly, but said that Charlotte was gone, she was dead. Carrie testified that she and Charlotte had plans the next day to go to visit Hershel in Lakeland.
Ora Lee Eubank is Charlotte’s sister. She lived with Charlotte. She testified that Tony called their house around 6 in the morning after Charlotte had died. She said he kept apologizing and said he loved Charlotte and that Charlotte was dead. When she asked him what happened he responded by saying “I don’t know”.
Testimony of the First Responder’s
Roger Dennis, was a Police Officer with the Winter Haven Police Department and was one of the first to arrive on the scene. He testified that when the EMTs advised Charlotte had died, Anthony became upset and cried.
Detective Brian Quinn, a patrolman with the Winter Haven Police Department arrived on the scene around 4:12 a.m. He testified at the trial that when he arrived on the scene, he surmised that Charlotte could have died from committing suicide. Detective Quinn testified he believed this because Anthony was present and attempting to revive Charlotte when they arrived. Detective Quinn also testified that when asked what happened, Anthony replied “I don’t know what happened” or something like that. Additionally, he testified that Anthony made 2 phone calls after the EMTs had gotten to the room. He called his father and stated something like, “there’s been an accident…my girlfriend has been shot.” He then flipped his Rolodex to the name of a local attorney and called him. The officer did not hear this conversation.
Gay W. Henry was a detective lieutenant with the Winter Haven Police Department at the time of the incident. Detective Henry testified at trial that the gun was handled by at least three different individuals with the police department at the scene, all with their bare hands. Officer Thomas, Detective Stanton along with himself all handled the weapon improperly and without preserving evidence which may have existed on the gun because they surmised suicide. Ultimately the gun was placed in a plastic bag to be transported to the police department for testing. Plastic bags sweat and therefore if there was evidence on the gun it may have been destroyed since it was transported in this manner.
Neal C. Thomas, a Winter Haven Patrol Officer, was also one of the first responders. Before entering the room, he testified that he saw Anthony pick up the gun off of the floor and tossed it onto the couch in order to get the police to come in and help. Officer Thomas testified he picked up the gun, immediately upon entering the room and placed it in his belt. When Detective Woodard arrived, she instructed him to place the gun back where he found it, on the couch, not where it originally was when he arrived, on the floor.
Detective Sergeant John Stanton with the Winter Haven police department testified that he examined the body at the scene and there appeared to be particles consistent with firing a gun on the deceased’s left hand. Detective Stanton performed a neutron test at the scene on Charlotte’s hand, by placing a chemical on the hand and then swabbing the area with a cotton swab. This was the wrong test to do first, as he should have first performed the paraffin test, which would have preserved the stippling and had no effect on the neutron test. Roughly 6 hours later, he lifted samples for the gun residue tests from the wound area and from the back of Charlotte’s left hand. He lifted the residue by using tape and then placed the sample on an index card. The area of the deceased’s left hand, appeared to the medical examiner to have stippling on it, but was washed down with alcohol and swabbed for the neutron test and then 6 hours later scotch tape was applied in an attempt to pick up stippling to test for residue. Is it any surprise that the test came back negative? The firearms expert at Anthony’s trial testified that the ideal way to collect particles in this manner is to use tweezers or a scalpel and then place the particles in a vial. Before swabbing the area or doing a neutron test, scotch tape can be used to pick up stippling from the skin and other particles on the scotch tape would not affect the test. But to perform the neutron test first, wipes away any particles including stippling which is only unburned gun powder or soot, which indicates she was holding the gun when it discharged. Hence stippling came out from around the cylinder and into her first and second fingers.
Detective Stanton is also the fingerprint expert for the police department and he testified that he did not do any dusting for fingerprints at the scene, nor did anyone else. In regards to handling a gun properly at the scene of a crime, Detective Stanton testified that you should use a cloth or some other material in order to not disturb fingerprints. This was not done.
Testimony of the Lead Detective
Sandra Woodard was the lead detective on this case and in her deposition she states that she had a personal dislike for Anthony. She arrived on the scene about a half hour after the first responders. Detective Woodard testified that the holster for the gun was found lying on the floor near one of Charlotte’s shoes. She also testified that she asked the lab to test the gun for fingerprints. The lab did not find any prints on the gun. She also tested Anthony’s hands for gun powder residue and none was found. Detective Woodard testified that there were 3 empty glasses in the room when the officers arrived on the scene and that the glasses appeared to have had wine in them. The glasses were not removed from the scene nor were they tested for finger prints. Detective Woodard testified that she did not believe there was any reason to test the glasses, since it was the defendant’s room and he and the deceased were the only people present. She did not leave any room for the possibility that someone could have come into the room, shot Charlotte and left. Detective Woodard did eventually testify that not removing the glasses was an oversight. She additionally never did any followed up investigating on the phone call to Dr. Johnson, whereby a female admitted to shooting Charlotte.
It should be noted that Detective Sandra Woodard had a personal dislike for Anthony. This was not just assumed, but she confirmed this in her deposition on September 28, 1981. When asked by Anthony's defense attorney, whether or not she liked Anthony, her response was "Personally?...No." (Woodard Deposition, Page 7). Additionally, in her deposition, Detective Woodard admitted that the only reason Anthony was arrested was because he would not talk to the police. She stated "He had already said he didn't want to talk to us and I told him, you know, if he didn't want to talk to us, we would have to charge him because there were no witnesses" (Woodard Deposition, Page 13). With such a dislike for the defendant, is it any surprise that Detective Woodard falsified the Arrest Affidavit to ensure Mr. Broom was arrested for this crime?
Testimony of Firearm’s Expert
Gary Rathman is a firearm expert at the Sanford Crime Laboratory. Gary testified that the gun recovered from the scene of the crime was a .22 magnum caliber Rhone single-action revolver. Single action means that the gun has to be cocked manually into the ready to be fired position and then the trigger is pulled manually in order to discharge the weapon. Gary testified that the gun was operating normally; however, the trigger pull was less than normal. Gary testified that the normal trigger pull of a similar gun is 3 ½ lbs., while the gun in question had a trigger pull of about 2 ¼ lbs. Gary testified that in his opinion, when the trigger pull is around 2 lbs or lighter, the weapon is considered dangerous.
Additionally, Gary testified that the gun appeared to have one cylinder that was fired more recently than the others. However, he could not establish that the bullet fragment removed from the deceased’s head came from the gun that was removed from Anthony’s hotel room. Additionally, the one cylinder that was fired more recently than the others was never determined when it was fired, i.e. one day, one week, one month, one year ago, etc. Mr. Rathman also testified that when the gun went off, it was held within two inches of the entrance wound. He further testified that none of the tests done on Anthony’s hands could prove that he had recently fired a weapon.