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Miami Primps for TV, Jailed Man Says

MIAMI (CN) - Miami jailed for 19 months a man who ran for his life as his friends were shot to death, because police wanted to "solve" the double murder "in an expeditious fashion for the television show 'First 48,'" the man claims in court.

Taiwan Smart sued the City of Miami for false arrest, false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights and constitutional violations, in Miami-Dade County Court. The city is the only defendant.

"First 48" is an A&E program that documents the first 48 hours after a homicide.

Smart says in the lawsuit that he was at a friend's house with another teen in November 2009 when masked men came up to a window and opened fire.

Smart, then 21, bolted out the back door; his two friends, 18 and 14, were killed.

Days later, Smart says, he called police to tell them he did not witness the murders, and he was in hiding, fearful that the gunman would pursue him to finish the job.

He claims Miami police Det. Fabio Sanchez picked him up with an entourage of production staff from "First 48."

The show followed detectives around for the first two days after homicide, on the premise that if a lead for a murder is not found by then, the probability of solving the crime drops by half, according to the complaint.

Smart says that when police detectives "along with the ever-present 'First 48' crew showed up at the arrange location" to meet him, on Nov. 17, 2009, the TV recorded it on video and audio. "Despite the fact that one of the show's stars, Det. Fabio Sanchez, intoned: 'He's acting more like a witness than he is a suspect right now, but we'll see what happened once we get him in the box ...,' Taiwan was handcuffed, placed in a police car, and taken for interrogation at the Central Miami Police Department headquarters, all of which was recorded for TV," according to the complaint.

Smart claims police interrogated him for 19 hours, accusing him of killing his friends. He was not allowed to sleep, was given just one sandwich and iced tea and subjected to "verbal abuse and groundless accusations that he was in fact a murderer, despite the fact that he never changed his story during the entire time period and despite the fact that it was clear that he was in shock and grieving the loss of his best friend," the complaint states.

Police charged him with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of selling a substance and possession of a firearm by a felon, the complaint states.

To hold him with no bond, Smart claims, Sanchez withheld key information from the judge at the bond hearing, including that Smart had called the police, "looked like a witness," and never said the killers did not enter the house, just that they shot through the window and he ran.

He claims police refused to turn over documents to his attorneys without court orders.

He claims police failed to follow up on several leads in which people claimed to know the real killer, and tried to persuade witnesses to identify Smart as the assailant, because of the 48-hour timeline of the TV show.

"Had Miami detectives spent a little more time investigating and less time posing for TV shots and re-enacting portions of what had happened outside the view of the cameras, they might have figured out that the murders occurred after Taiwan had fled the premises in fear of his life," the complaint states. "But with an eye toward fame and notoriety for themselves and the city, the detectives plowed ahead with their 'speedy' theory of crime resolution and arrested, shamed and humiliated this young man, as well as depriving him of his freedom for 19 months."

Smart claims the mayor, city manager and police commissioner all approved of the TV show and its method, "even if that required that Taiwan or any other 'suspect' would not be entitled to a full, fair and comprehensive investigation of the crime."

He claims that while he was in jail, "the actually killed was discovered and found to be incarcerated in the same facility as Taiwan. That individual confessed to a number of people that he had killed Jonathan and Raynathan and that not only had Taiwan not been involved, but that there had been a desire to have Taiwan killed as well because the killers were afraid that he could identify them."

Smart is represented by Joseph Klock with Rasco Klock Perez Nieto of Coral Gables.

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