In October 1996, a known drug dealer was shot and killed while sitting in his car in Baltimore, Maryland. In the days following the shooting, police interviewed several witnesses, including Frances Morgan, who claimed to have seen someone on a bike ride up to the dealer’s car and shoot him. When shown a photo array, Morgan identified Ronald Addison as the shooter. She was the main prosecution witness against Addison. Addison told the court he could prove that Morgan was lying and could not have seen the murder from her apartment, but his attorney failed to investigate the crime scene. In March 1998, after a bench trial, Addison was convicted of second-degree murder and possession of a handgun, and was sentenced to 30years in prison.
After Addison’s conviction, his appellate attorney requested the case file from the prosecution, and discovered exculpatory evidence that had not been provided to the defense. A second witness, who viewed a photo lineup that included Addison, identified someone else as the shooter. The witness also said he saw the shooter flee on foot, not on a bike as Morgan had claimed. A third witness gave the police a description of a suspect that did not match Addison, and also identified another person as the shooter from a photo array, while a fourth witness told the police his child had seen someone running from the scene. In addition, Morgan admitted to Addison’s attorney and a private investigator that she had not seen the murder and was high on cocaine at the time, and an investigation of the crime scene showed that Morgan could not have seen the murder from the place where she claimed to have been watching.
Addison’s first motion for post-conviction relief was denied, but in 2003 the Innocence Project of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender took his case and filed a motion to reopen his post-conviction proceeding. This motion was granted and, in October 2005, Addison’s conviction was vacated by a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge and he was granted a new trial. In December 2005, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Addison was released.
- Stephanie Denzel