Shortly before midnight on October 12, 1990, Gerry Hargrove parked his blue Oldsmobile in Detroit, Michigan and when he came out the next morning, it was gone.
What he didn’t know at that time was that about 4 a.m., a police officer saw Hargrove’s car blow a red light and gave chase until the car stopped and three people fled on foot. Two of them, both juveniles, were nabbed. The driver escaped.
One of the arresting officers radioed a description of a black male wearing white pants and a blue jacket.
About a half hour later, another officer a few blocks away who had heard the radio broadcast spotted 24-year-old Harold Wells walking home from a friend’s home.
Wells was wearing beige pants, white shoes, a blue hat and a blue jacket. He was arrested and taken to a police station where the two other occupants of the car told police that Wells was not the driver. One of the two juveniles actually told police the street where the driver lived.
That information was ignored and Wells was charged with unlawful driving away and receiving and concealing stolen property worth more than $100. The juveniles were not charged.
Wells went to trial on November 20, 1992 and took a bench trial before Judge Leonard Townsend. The prosecution called two witnesses, both police officers. Wells testified on his own behalf, denying that he stole the car. The trial was completed in a day and Wells was found guilty. The sentencing guidelines called for no more than nine months in prison, but Judge Townsend imposed a sentence of 1 ½ to five years.
Attorney David Moran represented Wells on appeal and requested a hearing on whether Wells had received ineffective assistance of counsel. The motion was granted.
Moran argued to Judge Townsend that Wells’ trial attorney had failed to read the police reports showing the existence of witnesses who would have provided exculpatory evidence.
Rather than take testimony, Townsend heard arguments and granted the motion for a new trial. The charges were dismissed on November 2, 1993.
– Maurice Possley