Freddie Pitts, a black man in Florida wrongfully convicted of the murders of two white men long ago, was surprised yesterday when a campaign mailer arrived bearing his face and a painful reminder of his past, says the Miami Herald. It told how Democratic candidate for governor Jim Davis voted in the Florida Legislature in 1990 against compensating Pitts and codefendant Wilbert Lee — even though they had been pardoned 15 years earlier and another man had confessed to the crime. The men had been sentenced to death and spent 12 years in prison — more than nine of them on Death Row. ” ‘Jim Davis’ Record of Shame,” the mailer says. “Davis voted to deny justice.” Davis, now a U.S. congressman, was stung during a debate televised statewide this week when rival Rod Smith asked him why he had voted against compensating the two men. Davis said he did not believe in 1990 that there was sufficient evidence to award Pitts and Lee compensation.
That explanation didn’t sit well with Pitts, who was among about 100,000 voters throughout the state who received the flier. ”The one big thing is a man’s inability to admit when he’s wrong,” Pitts, 62, said. Davis was on the majority side of the 6-4 committee vote to deny restitution. Miguel De Grandy, then a Republican state representative from Miami, recalled giving an impassioned plea on behalf of the two men, who had been convicted by an all-white jury in a rural Panhandle town. ”To me it was a classic case of two African Americans being at the wrong place at the wrong time in a racist environment,” said de Grandy.