On December 28, 1992, Danielle Daniels, 18 years old and pregnant, was walking with her fiancée, Dionysis Thomas, along a sidewalk in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a car pulled up and a man fired a single shotgun blast from a rear window.
Daniels was killed. Thomas, who police believed was the intended target, was unhurt.
On June 30, 1993, the day he turned 16, Cornelius Reed was charged with murder based on witness identifications by Thomas and a man who was driving a car nearby just prior to the shooting.
Reed went on trial in December 1993. Thomas said he saw Reed fire the shotgun and Anthony Lester, driver of a car in the area, told the jury he saw Reed and two others in the car shortly before the shooting.
Thomas admitted that even though he knew Reed, he had not given Reed’s name to police immediately after the shooting. Further, when first shown a photographic lineup, Thomas selected a photograph of a man who later was able to prove he was in Arkansas at the time of the murder. He also testified that he was “no longer positive” that Reed was the gunman.
Lester did not see the shooting and although he said that Reed was in the back seat prior to the shooting, he also identified another man as being in the back seat.
Reed was convicted on December 9, 1993 and sentenced to life in prison.
Two days later, Ronnie Watkins, a Wisconsin prison inmate serving 22 years for five armed robberies, read about the verdict and wrote a letter to Reed saying he knew what really happened.
A private investigator interviewed Watkins who said that on the night of the murder, he heard his nephew, Maurice Taylor talking with some other men and one of them said to Taylor that he had made a mistake by shooting a woman. Taylor allegedly replied, “I shot the damn bitch anyway.”
Watkins also described how he helped Taylor get rid of the shotgun used in the murder.
A motion for a new trial was filed and Watkins testified that Taylor was the gunman, but the motion was denied.
On June 25, 1996, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed Reed’s conviction, noting the newly discovered evidence, the weak identification evidence at trial and that the trial judge’s decision was partly based on facts not in evidence.
On February 15, 1997, Reed was acquitted at his retrial.
– Maurice Possley