DNA to free man jailed for 26 years

The Miami Herald
By PAULA McMAHON, Sun Sentinel

Broward County, FL

Anthony Caravella, whose rape and murder conviction has been contradicted by DNA evidence, is scheduled to be released Wednesday.

The Broward State Attorney's Office asked for Anthony Caravella to be temporarily released Tuesday. And a Broward Circuit Court judge ordered him freed immediately.

But after close to 26 years in prison for a 1983 rape and murder that his attorney says he has been exonerated of by DNA testing, a last-minute hitch meant Caravella had to spend another night in the Broward County Jail.

DNA results, released last week, excluded Caravella, 41, as the source of forensic evidence found on the victim, Ada Cox Jankowski, 58, who was slain in Miramar.

But because he is still technically a convicted sex offender, the Florida Department of Children & Families had to conduct an evaluation of him under the Jimmy Ryce Act, a law used to monitor released sex offenders.

The release order, signed by Judge Mily Rodriguez-Powell, was walked over to the main jail by Caravella's public defender, Diane Cuddihy, at 5 p.m. But Caravella couldn't be released because no one from DCF's evaluation team was available to see him after office hours, Cuddihy said.

Cuddihy told The Sun Sentinel that Caravella was "disappointed but smiling'' when she explained the reason for the delay. "It's frustrating,'' she said.

Prosecutor Carolyn McCann said Caravella's release was "the right thing to do'' given new scientific evidence that turned up the genetic profile of an unidentified man as the source of the DNA. Prosecutors said Caravella should be temporarily freed while they investigate.

Cuddihy also filed court documents Tuesday asking for Caravella's conviction to be vacated and for him to be freed permanently. Writing that his conviction was undermined by the DNA, she also highlighted new evidence that raises yet more questions about the original investigation.

She cited new witness testimony that may shed light on why Caravella, who was 15 at the time of the crime and has an IQ of 67, confessed. Over the period of a week, he gave police five confused statements that contradicted the physical evidence in some ways and coincided with it in others.

Caravella was arrested on Dec. 28, 1983, two months after Jankowski's body was found on the grounds of Miramar Elementary School.

'VERY ANGRY'

In statements made public Tuesday, Caravella's friend, Dawn Simone, told the defense that Miramar police beat, pushed and slapped Caravella to get him to confess, and threatened to prosecute Simone if he did not tell them about the murder.

"[Simone] stated that the police were very angry and very threatening. She also heard yelling and what she believed to be the police hitting the defendant coming from the interrogation room,'' Cuddihy wrote. Afterward, Simone saw Caravella.

"[Caravella] advised Ms. Simone that she was in a lot of trouble and that he was sorry and he would help her,'' Cuddihy wrote. Later that night, Caravella gave his first recorded statement to police and said he saw the crime being committed by three other juveniles.

Simone was released that evening and was not charged. She was not called to testify in the trial.

On a later date, police picked up Dawn Simone again and told her Caravella agreed to talk if he could see her. They had a face-to-face meeting and Caravella gave more incriminating statements to police, Cuddihy wrote.

Miramar police spokeswoman Tania Rues said the department is examining the 1983 case, and that no prior claims were made that Caravella was hit.

EVIDENCE ISSUE

Also included in the court filing Tuesday is an allegation that one of the officers, William Mantesta, now retired, and the trial prosecutor Robert Carney, now a Broward Circuit judge, withheld evidence from the defense that at least raised questions about Caravella's guilt.

AUDIO TAPE

McCann, the prosecutor, found an audio tape in the file kept by Carney, her predecessor on the case, and gave it to Cuddihy in 2002.

The audio recorded a Jan. 17, 1984, phone conversation on a police department line of another juvenile, Jorge Delgado, telling Mantesta he killed the woman with Caravella. Delgado died years later.

"Detective Mantesta asked Delgado if he understood what he was saying. When Delgado answered affirmatively, Detective Mantesta advised Delgado that he would immediately come to his home. Despite knowing that the conversation was being taped, Detective Mantesta did not engage Delgado in further conversation and rushed him off the phone,'' Cuddihy wrote.

Efforts to reach Mantesta were unsuccessful.

Judge Carney answered some background questions about the case.

However, he said that judicial rules prevent him from commenting on details because the case is still pending.

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