Delbert Tibbs was arrested
in 1974 and charged with the murder of a white man and the rape of his
girlfriend. The crime took place on a Florida highway and, except for
the "rape victim", there were no other witnesses. She told police
the murder and rape were committed by a black man she described as dark
skinned, five-six or seven with a big Afro. Delbert Tibbs is light skinned,
six three and wore a small Afro. Delbert, who was hitch-hiking two hundred
miles away from the scene was arrested and charged with the crimes.
It was later learned that the
murder victim had been recently discharged from the navy and had moved
to the trailer park where the young woman was living with her boyfriend,
a photographer. The woman became involved with the sailor and they ran
off together. When asked during cross-examination, "Isn't it true
that you ran away from this guy? The photographer, he pursued you and
caught you on the highway and then killed this young man and threatened
to kill you if you didn't come back with him?" she broke down and
cried. The judge called a recess. When she returned to the stand, cross
examination resumed but the lawyer representing Mr. Tibbs, never asked
her another question about it.
Delbert Tibbs was sentenced
to death. Two years later, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction
for lack of evidence.