Police officer kills man who served 16 years in prison for wrongful conviction

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KINGSLAND, Ga. (AP) — A man who spent more than 16 years in prison in Florida for a wrongful conviction was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia during a traffic stop Monday, authorities and officials said.

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Leonard Allen Cure, 53, was identified by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting.

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His death was confirmed to the South Florida Sun Sentinel by Seth Miller, executive director of the Sun Sentinel Florida Innocence Projectwho worked with Cure on his wrongful conviction case.

“We are devastated by the news of his tragic death and have no further comment at this time,” Miller told the newspaper.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said a Camden County officer stopped a driver on Interstate 95 near the Georgia-Florida line and the driver got out of the car at the officer’s request. He initially cooperated but became violent when told he would be arrested, a GBI news release said.

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The agency said preliminary information shows the deputy shocked the driver with a stun gun when he disobeyed commands, and the driver then began attacking the deputy. The GBI said the deputy tried to subdue him again with the stun gun and a baton, then pulled out his gun and shot the driver when he continued to resist.

The agency did not say what prompted the deputy to stop Cure’s vehicle.

It is common for law enforcement agencies in Georgia to hire the GBI to investigate officer-involved shootings. The agency said it will present its findings to the district attorney for the Brunswick Coastal Judicial District, which includes Camden County.

Cure was convicted of the 2003 armed robbery of a drugstore in Dania Beach, Florida, and sentenced to life in prison because he had previous convictions for robbery and other crimes.

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However, the case was problematic from the start and his conviction came from a second jury after the first deadlocked.

In 2020, the Broward State Attorney’s Office’s new Conviction Review Unit asked a judge to release Cure from prison. Broward’s conviction review team said it found “disturbing” revelations that Cure had solid alibis that had previously been discounted and that there was no physical evidence or corroborating witnesses to prove him at the crime scene. An independent review panel of five local attorneys agreed with the findings.

Cure was released in April this year after his sentence was changed. In December of this year, a judge overturned his conviction and sentence.

“I look forward to putting this situation behind me and moving on with my life,” Cure told the Sun Sentinel at the time.

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In June, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a compensation bill that awarded Cure $817,000 in compensation for his conviction and incarceration, as well as educational benefits.

“The Leonard we knew was a smart, funny and kind person,” Broward District Attorney Harold F. Pryor said in a statement to the newspaper Monday evening. “After he was released and exonerated by our office, he visited prosecutors in our office and participated in training to help our staff do their jobs as fairly and thoroughly as possible. He called frequently to check in with Assistant District Attorney Arielle Demby Berger, head of the Conviction Review Unit, and to encourage our team to continue the important work of justice.”

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