Timeline of Leon’s Case
In 1985, Leon Torres [Leon] worked in Tampa and lived with his girl friend, Pauline [Pauline].
He met the killer, William Moore [Moore], who told Lehman he was going to rob the restaurant;
Lehman took Leon’s guns when neither Leon nor Pauline were home, and gave them to Moore;
Lehman told someone at the restaurant (where he worked) that the place would be robbed;
Moore robbed the restaurant, left, and encountered the owner, Frischknecht, who was armed with a shotgun and pistol. There was a shoot-out. Frischknecht was killed.
Police contacted Lehman because the employee he talked to about the robbery called the police.
Lehman was arrested and questioned – he told them Moore was the killer (which was the truth);
The police couldn’t find Moore — they again questioned Lehman. Lehman, under threat, gave them the name of James Stewart.
Stewart was arrested and charged with murder. After several months, Stewart was able to prove his innocence, and then successfully sued the City of Tampa;
Detectives went back to Lehman and pressured him for another name — he gave them Leon’s name.
January 31, 1986, Leon was arrested for the crime. He was convicted of armed robbery and 1st degree murder in 1987. Both Lehman and Pauline were threatened with charges and pressured into testifying against Leon. This first trial was prosecuted by Joe Episcopo.
In 1989, the FL Supreme Court vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial. The same detectives pushed for conviction in the second trial. Cass Castilo was the prosecutor.
Pauline refused to lie and recanted her testimony in the second trial — she was charged with perjury and sentenced to 5 years (she served 5 months);
Lehman was threatened also, so he told the same lie at the second trial. The jury believed Lehman. Leon was again convicted. Joe Episcopo, who prosecuted Leon in the first trial, was fired from the Prosecutor’s office a year after Leon’s second conviction for manipulating evidence and witness testimony, for misuse of state funds, for lying, and for falsifying documents or records.
May 19, 1996, Lehman filed an Affidavit with the Court stating the truth about his false testimony;
Leon was granted an evidentiary hearing, and again Lehman was threatened into withdrawing his Affidavit. (He later wrote the truth in a letter to Leon)
December 24, 2009, Moore confessed to the murder, albeit anonymously, in a letter to Obama, which the US Dept. of Justice forwarded to Leon’s Public Defender.
2015 New evidence has come to light since Leon’s conviction on Appeal:
- The real killer confessed in 2009 in a letter sent to the U.S. Justice Department; The chief witness against Leon in the first and second trial recanted.. The 2009 confession of the real killer states the same facts as the 1996 affidavit of Lehman.
- The detective who was responsible for Leon’s arrest, and threatened the witnesses in both trials, married the widow of the victim.
- The DA, Joe Episcopo, was fired from the DA’s Office a year after Leon’s first conviction for manipulating evidence and witness testimony, for misuse of state funds, for lying and for falsifying documents or records.
- The Miranda Form read to Leon in 1985 had been held to be unconstitutional in 1984, in Thompson v. State, 595 2d 16 (Fla 1992)