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Help ease wrongfully convicted Leo Schofield's "deep long-felt loneliness"
This son of Lakeland and Polk County, in prison 35 years for another man's act of murderous violence against his wife, needs hometown friends and support.
In just a moment, I’m going to share a note from the Leo Schofield of 2023. Polk County and the state of Florida wrongfully convicted Leo — as a very young man in 1989 Lakeland — of murdering his 18-year-old wife, Michelle Schofield.
All current evidence — including multiple detailed confessions and a palm print at the scene of crime — indicate confessed serial killer Jeremy Scott killed Michelle in a fit of rage, after she gave him a ride on a rainy night in 1987. It was a random act of terrible violence.
By contrast, no physical or eyewitness evidence has ever linked Leo Schofield to the murder of his wife. Not even at his trial in 1989. And no jury has ever heard the evidence implicating Scott and exonerating Leo Schofield that emerged over time following the trial.
Imagine knowing all of that as you sit in prison, innocent, for the 35th year, days rushing by. Imagine that’s your life. Imagine you’re Leo Schofield today.
I took a deeper dive the Schofield atrocity — and our shared community’s culpability for it — here.
“The reality is I am a son of Lakeland”
Leo and I have have begun to correspond through the Florida State Prison secure email system. And you can, too. I’ll explain how on the other side, as well as a couple of references he makes. But read this now and consider what it would mean for you to have people express belief in you, if you were in his situation. Note the part in bold.
I just finished reading the email you sent along with the resolution you and Randy Wilkinson intend to put before the County Commissioners. As I was reading, I tried to put words to my own feelings in the moment. I cannot even begin to tell you how much strength you have given me, and at a time when strength falls to despair.
I have fought against this conviction for so long with truth and integrity, never trying to stain anyone's reputation or even make it a me against them type of thing. I simply sought justice for Michelle. I have stood for her where and when she could not stand for herself because she deserved better than this. To have you and more and more of my hometown finally know the truth, believe it, and act upon it takes away the deep, long felt loneliness of this ordeal. I don't know how to say thank you, Billy, but I am truly filled with gratitude.
I need to share this as well . . . I do NOT want money from the state, I don't want fame or notoriety, I don't even want to make them (the judiciary) apologize for this wrongful conviction. I simply want them to acknowledge that I'm not guilty, Jeremy Scott killed Michelle, and I should be released to go take care of my family while I have the ability to do so. I don't believe that's too much to ask.
I also want to say this to you and your followers. I am sorry for the bad acts of stupidity I did commit while blessed to be with Michelle. Being young and immature is no excuse for bad behavior. That sentiment has haunted me for over three decades and no one can punish me more over it than I have myself. I wish I could take every bad moment back. But there were tons more of the good moments that NEVER received the attention that the very few bad moments did. And no one should be defined by their worst moments.
Still, I always did take responsibility for mine and I still do. So, it is I who asks for the forgiveness, Billy. I would love for you to share my contact information with anyone who wishes to correspond with me, especially those from Lakeland …
… [The prosecutor in 1989] did his best to paint me as an outsider from "up north," but the reality is I am a son of Lakeland, went to high school here, and got married here! I would have grown up here had I been given the chance. I am not an outsider! I belong to you! I had thought I would never be welcomed there again because of the bad publicity and the lies that were told, but now . . . please bring me home!
A resolution of support for a new trial for any local government to consider
In 1989, Prosecutor John Aguero used largely non-specific “character” testimony that should have been inadmissible to paint Leo Schofield as abusive to Michelle during what was a challenging marriage of two very young people with very little money.
Leo himself admits to slapping Michelle twice, but denied any further physical abuse. That’s what his apology is about in the 4th paragraph. It’s worth noting that the prosecutor who presented that testimony as evidence of murder guilt was later arrested, as a comfortable middle-aged man of status, for manhandling his estranged wife. He did not go to prison for the rest of his life.
The resolution Leo mentions refers to what former Republican County Commissioner and School Board Member Randy Wilkinson and I have jointly submitted to the Polk County Commission for consideration at its March 7 meeting.
Here is the note we sent to county commissioners, which explains why legislative branch has an interests and obligation and the draft resolution we attached. Feel free to adapt this for your local government of choice.
Good morning, commissioners. Randy Wilkinson and Billy Townsend want to share a resolution we will be bringing for your consideration at the next BoCC meeting, which we believe is March 7. We envision presenting it during the public comment section of the agenda. Please consider this a request to be added to the agenda formally, if that's a requirement or appropriate.
Randy and Billy are both former elected officials. We're about as different politically and socially as two people can be; but we agree that Leo Schofield has suffered a terrible legal and human injustice that should be remedied immediately. The story has been told in excruciating detail in the Polk County-focused podcast about his ongoing wrongful conviction: Bone Valley.
Our resolution calls for a new trial and/or parole of wrongly convicted Leo Schofield, who has served 35 years in prison for a Polk County murder that another man has confessed to - in addition to leaving physical evidence at the crime scene. No jury has ever heard that evidence exonerating Leo.
This is a "legislative branch" issue because the executive and judicial branches have, together, refused to allow the people of Polk County, through their constitutional role as jurors, to consider the evidence exonerating Leo Schofield. The people of Polk County deserve the right to correct the mistake made in 1989, when they acted with incorrect and limited information.
In your role as countywide representatives, you have the ability and obligation to speak for the people of Polk County and their right to determine guilt and innocence based on fact and law. When the executive and judicial branches fail, you have the obligation to advocate for the people in your legislative role. Thank you, here's the draft resolution, which we've also attached.
Whereas convicted murderer Jeremy Scott has confessed multiple times, over many years, in ever increasing detail, to killing Michelle Schofield in February 1987;
Whereas Scott’s palm print on Michelle Schofield’s car is the only physical evidence tying anyone to her murder;
Whereas no jury has ever heard the confessions or evidence against Jeremy Scott;
Whereas a 1989 Polk County jury, totally ignorant of the Jeremy Scott evidence, convicted Leo Schofield for the murder of his wife Michelle despite the complete absence of physical or eyewitness evidence;
Whereas Leo Schofield has spent the last 35 years of his life prison for a crime all evidence suggests he did not commit;
Whereas the state of Florida has repeatedly refused to allow a Polk County jury to retry Leo Schofield with the benefit of Jeremy Scott’s confessions and evidence;
Be it resolved on this ____ day of ___ that the [Polk County Commission] calls on the judicial and executive branches of Florida to use whatever power is available to them allow Polk County to correct this obvious, life-destroying mistake and moral atrocity committed in the name of the people of Polk County.
How to contact Leo
Here’s a thread on how you can help Leo with the practicalities of life from Kelsey Decker, co-producer of the “Bone Valley” podcast.
It’s fairly self explanatory.
Each message requires a paid “stamp.” I think you can buy 70 stamps for $20. It’s not hugely expensive; but it’s a reminder that prison exacts a cost for every basic shred of humanity.
Especially when you’re innocent.