Court TV Transcript

Exonerated Bradley Scott talks about his three-year ordeal on death row
Nov. 6, 2000

Court TV Host: Talk to Bradley Scott, who lived for three years on Florida's death row. It's an amazing story. A 12 year old girl was murdered in Florida in 1978. Bradley Scott was questioned about it at the time. He took a lie detector test. He had an alibi. Seven years later, prosecutors charged him with the crime of first degree murder...and asked for the death penalty. But they lost evidence from the preliminary investigation. Scott claimed he couldn't clear himself properly. His court-appointed attorney left—he quit to go work for the state just several days before he went to trial. Scott was convicted...and sentence to death in 1988. But he got a new lawyer, and in 1991, he was freed. The Florida state Supreme Court ordered his acquittal because, it said, the state had had an "unjustified" delay in bringing the case and that the circumstantial evidence did not make a case against Mr. Scott. His story is now being told in a new play in New York called "Exonerated" which chronicles, the stories of a group of freed death row inmates. Mr. Scott was in New York last week for the premiere of the play, which has attracted a number of well-known actors who are performing in the play on a rotating basis. Among the actors are Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Charles Dutton and Sarah Jones.

Court TV Host: Hello everyone, our guest Bradley Scott is here with us.

Court TV Host: Welcome, Mr. Scott.

Bradley Scott: Hello

jenn1801 asks: What kind of crime were you accused of committing?

Bradley Scott: I was accused of killing a 12 year old Port Charlotte girl. This happened in 1978. In 1978, approximately two months after the murder, I was being investigated for an assault on a 16 or 17 year old girl. I was convicted of a simple assault. They wanted to know my whereabouts on the night of the murder. At that time, I had told them that that was 2 months ago, I didn't remember exactly where I was, I would need a calendar. They gave me a calendar, and I told them where I was, I gave them a complete alibi. They said okay. I found out that they had called my wife, and that they had called her down and she had gone down, and apparently she had given the same exact story that I had given them. We had no communication. Once they talked to her, they said they would need some proof. She had receipts, which had the date time and store where we had been, and what we bought that night. We had one automobile, and the murder happened approximately 25 miles away from my house. She brought the receipts and even the stuff we bought that night. They didn't tell me that they had spoken to her, and they asked me whether I would take a polygraph examination, and I said most certainly I would. So two days later, I took the polygraph exam. Nothing was said to me at all. I was released from jail about a month after that. I went home to my wife and son, and was going to move to about a month after release, and we did so.

illiniguy1 asks: Why were you the chief suspect?

Bradley Scott: I wasn't. They had 100 suspects at the time. Anyone who was in the county jail, or who had any criminal record; they investigated everyone. This was a high profile case. This was a young girl who had been brutally murdered. I was willing to give them any information so that I would not be a suspect, so that they could find out who did it. There was about 50 of us in the county jail that was investigated. Even though the victim was not sexually assaulted, anyone who may have abused a child or physically abused a child was investigated as well. And due to the fact that I had been convicted of a simple assault they were investigating me. Everyone was actually a suspect at the time because they wanted to close this case. Apparently there was no evidence for me to be held or investigated any further. They also took my car to the sheriff's department, and at that time they found no evidence to support any wrongdoing in any case.

triciaplumley asks: How was it whittled from 100 suspects to you?

tracyc_2000 asks: What evidence did they have to think you did it out of all the 100 people?

Bradley Scott: The reason I was picked out as a suspect 8 years later, and arrested 8 years later, was that the girl that I had assaulted started to date the victim's brother. And then, all of a sudden, somewhere probably in 1983, they reopened the case, and at that time, the only thing they had was her claiming that I told her that I committed the crime. And then the case went dormant again, because there was no evidence to connect me to the crime, except her saying what she said. So in 1986 the case was reopened for the second time. Then they investigated but at that time, on the second or third reopening of the case, they came over to investigate me, which they did silently. Then a detective came to my door and asked me whether I would take a polygraph examination with the FBI, which I said I certainly would. I did, and apparently I must have passed it because I never saw him again. The one detective in the room told me that there was no problem, that I was free to go. Then several months later, they arrested me. On my arrival, my bond was set at $100,000 As far as I know, if you're arrested for first degree murder they don't give you bond. They arrested me without without indicting me, so they had to place a bond on me. Then, 21 days later, when they had time to run my picture in the paper and build a case against me, they indicted me, and revoked my bond.

merlinsmagik1 asks: What were the range of emotions you went through on death row?

Bradley Scott: That's putting the cart before the horse... let me finish the story…I went to trial two years later. Two weeks before my trial started, my public defender had quit my case and started working for the state attorney's office, the office that was prosecuting me. Two weeks before my trial, they assigned me another attorney. At that time the case is 10 years old. My attorney had no time to prepare for a case that was 10 years old. Although the case against me was weak, the attorney still had no time to prepare for a politically motivated case. Witness after witness was called. I felt that the trial was going excellently. Even with an attorney who had no time to prepare for the case, I still thought everything was going well to prove my innocence. A couple of weeks later, I was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to die in the Florida electric chair. I was shocked. I couldn't stop crying I had no idea what had happened to me, or how this had all happened All I knew was that I was getting the death penalty for a crime I did not commit.

mmartin121 asks: What was death row like?

Bradley Scott: You are completely stripped of your pride, your principles, your morals. You're stripped of everything. They make you feel like you're an animal. And you are treated like an animal. Your clothes are stripped off your body in front of all the men there. Then you put on your death row jumpsuit. Then they put you in a single-man cell, which is a steel bunk and a toilet and sink combination, all combined in one stainless steel unit bolted to the wall. The door is closed behind you. And that is the end of your life. You have a lot of mixed feelings about your life: how did I get here? Why didn't people see that I was falsely accused? It was plain as the driven snow. Your emotions are mixed. You have no idea what you are going to do. Nobody tells you anything. And to me personally, I felt that I was already killed.

i_like_noah asks: What was the hardest thing you faced being on death row that long?

Bradley Scott: My freedom. I had a family who stood by me for the three years I was on death row and the two years I was in county jail awaiting trial, not knowing if I would ever come home to my wife and children.

fairmont86_98 asks: How was the food on death row?

Bradley Scott: A lot of people are misinformed of the food conditions of what is served to us. I have friends of mine who had a cattle farm, and they raised pigs on that farm. And the food is no better than the food the pigs received. You are fed in a steel dish, where food is apparently, by the time you receive it, all mixed together. It looks just like slop. Nothing cold to drink. No drinks. No salt and pepper. No butter. That is slop. Because you're nobody. You're marked for death. Once you're marked for death, they have no feelings for you. You're classified as a murderer, why would any one listen to any of your requests for any human living conditions. You're sent to die. That's what you're sent to death row for.

warhorse46 asks: Tell us about a day in the life of a death row inmate.

Bradley Scott: Your day starts off at 4:30 in the morning. They wake you up. A siren goes off. You have to be out of your bunk and by your bars to receive your meals. Even if you don't eat it, you better be by the bars. First thing they do is bring you coffee in a 5-gallon plastic bucket, which they pour into a steel cup. after breakfast, which is slop, your choice is to lay there and cry, and feel sorry for yourself, or to write your family letters, to try to entertain yourself by writing your family letters and building their spirits You don't write your family and tell them how bad it is, because that's making them endure the same pain that you're going through yourself.

mraustyboy asks: Were you scared to die?

Bradley Scott: That's a hard one there. I was afraid to die only because no one would know the truth that I was there for a crime I did not commit and that no one would know that it was a crime I did not commit. While I was there, they had killed Theodore Bundy. That's the first electrocution that I had witnessed in my cell. By the lights flickering in all the cells, you can see the reflections in the walls coming from all the other cells. I asked the guard what was making the lights flicker on and off. He said, "We're ridding the world of another piece of shit." Later, I found out the flickering of the light was due to the fact Florida Power and Light refuses to give power to death row to execute men. So they use a power generator. In the process of killing men using the generator, the generator uses so much power to kill a man, this is why the lights flicker.

cusoon42 asks: Why were you taken out of death row?

Bradley Scott: After I was on death row for two years, the state had assigned a public defender to my case for an appeal. When he came to see me, he told me it would probably be another two years before he could get my case into the Supreme Court because he was short staffed and he already had ten other death row inmates he was defending. I told him "Goodbye. I would rather die than have an attorney like you." He reminded me of my first attorney who quit two weeks before the trial. He gave me the same answers...nothing. I wrote the trial judge. I told the judge that I had dismissed my public defender, that the state was so willing to give me, and I begged him, he had sat through my trial as well as me, we both know deep down inside that I did not commit this crime. I went further and begged him to please find me some kind of attorney who would help me fight this case. Two weeks later, I received a letter back from the judge saying that he had assigned an attorney to the case. He gave me his name and address. I was very excited about it. And wrote the day I received a letter from the judge. A week or so later, my new attorney, Dennis Rehak, out of Fort Myers, wrote me back, saying he wants to go over my case, and that he'll come up as soon as a does. A month or so after reviewing my case, he came to visit me and I was telling myself, please don't be a non-caring person, or a person with a negative attitude. Please God, send me someone who will do something for me and believe in me. Dennis' first words were: "I reviewed your case, You don't have to say anything, I believe in you. I know you did not commit this crime, and I'll have you out in no time. Hopefully, six months to a year." Six months later, all seven justices of the Supreme Court of the State of Florida had acquitted me of all wrongdoing, and gave the order for my immediate release. Needless to say, my attorney only had ten minutes in the Supreme Court to argue my case.

mrtouchdown3000 asks: Do you support the death penalty?

stick_doggie_dog asks: Do you think any crime deserves the death penalty?

Bradley Scott: I thought before, as the majority of people might think, that if a man was convicted of murder, he should have to pay for his crime, whether it was the gas chamber or the electic chair, so be it. But after being convicted of a crime I did not commit, I realize that it happens to other people as well. You don't know, no one knows, if you committed the crime when you go in there. You're just another death row inmate. Probably everyone in there will tell you that they didn't commit the crime, so I don't have the answers as to how to divide the innocent and the guilty. But let's just say, the next man you kill may be an innocent man. I believe now there's 86 men who have been released from death row for crimes they did not commit. They have been exonerated, though the stigma will always be there -- the stigma of a convicted man.

dumb asks: Do people treat you differently , even though you have been released from death row?

Bradley Scott: Yeah. You don't tell anybody that. You actually try to keep a low profile because you have a family, you have a job, a church you go to, stores you go to. You are labeled, you are marked. People find out about it, like friends, then you have to justify all that has been said. You find you have to prove your innocence to everyone who doesn't know about the case.

qtstorm73 asks: Did you get in touch with your spiritual side more while all of this was going on?

Bradley Scott: Most definitely. I was raised a Catholic. I married my wife, she was Baptist. I used to go to church, but it had no meaning. But if you want to find God, go to death row. You'll find him. Because he's the only friend you'll have while you're there.

jpardythe1st asks: What are you going to do now that you're out?

Bradley Scott: I've been out since 1991. I've been on the same job for nine years. And I continue to keep this job. It's not that I have a lot of opportunities, although my slate has been clean, there's always a thing called an arrest that stays on your record. So I can't work for the government, state, county, day care center. I'm very limited in what I actually can do because I was convicted -- although I was exonerated.

southern_37620 asks: Are you able to live a "normal" life now?

Bradley Scott: No. And it's probably worse that my wife and kid went through the same ordeal. Their life was on death row. They experienced the same thing I experienced. My wife and kids had to go on welfare. I lost a top-paying job. I had debts before I went in, and the same debts when I got out.

merlinsmagik1 asks: Are you going to try and get some sort of compensation from the state of Florida?

Bradley Scott: I tried. In 1991, after my release, I hired a civil rights attorney He told me at that time that the legislators in the state of Florida, two months before my release, passed a new law, stating that the state of Florida is no longer liable for negligence in a capital felony charge of murder. So I was going to go after the sheriff's department, and I find out that there's a federal cap of $45,000 on what you can sue for. And it would take three years. In that time, I'd have to pay my attorney weekly to take my case. And pay for every motion. It would probably have cost $50,000 So I would have come away with nothing except perhaps the satisfaction of proving the injustice that was done. But in this world, it takes money to make money.

cynickel2 asks: How do you feel about the current justice system?

Bradley Scott: It's probably better here than anywhere else in the world -- I'll agree with that. But something needs to be done. Too much politics in the courthouse. Too much media is focused on the political case. Once the finger is pointed at you, they don't have to have evidence to convict you.

funwithme29_99 asks: Are you holding a grudge against anyone since you were almost put to death for something you didn't do? Will you ever forgive, if so?

Bradley Scott: I think forgiveness takes time. When I got out, I hated everyone. I hated the system, I hated the courts, and I was just was full of hate. No revenge. Just hate. After nine years, I've learned that you have to keep one foot ahead of you to survive. You have to put the past behind you, your hate behind you, to be able to put that foot in front of you. Forgiveness is like a gift. To receive it takes time. I'm over my pain, my suffering, because I've now learned to keep that one foot ahead of me.

princess20030 asks: Do they know who did it then?

Court TV Host: The question refers to the murder Mr. Scott was convicted of.

Bradley Scott: No, but there was a man in 1978 who lived in the same neighborhood, and no other murder had taken place there at that time. Several months later, after the murder, this man, up North somewhere, he had taken a can of lighter fluid poured it all over his body, written a suicide note and put himself on fire. Someone else in the parking lot saw him, came to his rescue, then the police showed up and put him in a mental institution. The suicide note he left behind was read and sent to the state where this crime had been committed, and when the detectives in the town where the murder was committed, they read that he had committed the murder and gave details that no one else would have known but the murderer. When the detectives tried to investigate it, and found out about this guy, the psychiatrists would not let them come into the facility and so they actually closed that case, although he confessed to it. Because for months they tried to get in there. But the family of the man was rich and protected him. This happened in 1978, not too long after the murder. But they took it off the books because they could not talk to this guy. Many years later, before my trial, my attorney had sent his investigators over to investigate this suicide note. At that time he was still under psychological care and was protected by his family wealth and his psychiatrists. My trial judge would not let the jury hear the evidence of this confession. We couldn't present the suicide note at all, which gave the details of the murder.

mrtouchdown3000 asks: Are you going to write a book about your experience?

angel_off_duty16 asks: What was/is your biggest goal now that ou are off death row? *CANDIE* 16/f/toronto

canukgal_99 asks: So what now, Bradley?

Bradley Scott: There's no book in the making as of now. To get on with my life, I found that talking about this has been a lot of help. So the last two years, I've been coming out of the closet and talking to people about it I've been to Chicago, to the law university, to speak against the death penalty for the wrongfully convicted. I just got back from New York where there was a play with myself and ten other wrongfully convicted men. The play is called "Exonerated." I haven't received any money from anyone. That's not what my goal is. My goal is to tell people that there are and still could be, men on death row who are innocent. We have a screwed-up law system, and once you go through it, you will know what I'm talking about. Hopefully some good will come out of all of it, and it's a healing process that for me seems to be working, being able to talk about it. It makes you feel better about yourself, rather than if you were to hold it in. Then you feel hate. And I'm the type of person, I love people, I don't want to change that. I don't want to change my personality because of that. If I was rich or poor, it wouldn't matter. Money is not the issue. It's the state of mind As long as you're in the right state of mind, God will see to you needs and help you get through this world.

Court TV Host: Thank you very much for joining us tonight and sharing your story with us.