Shortly before 6 a.m. on August 24, 2000, shots were fired outside a laundromat on Lincoln Avenue in Aurora, Illinois. Two men were shot and a woman escaped injury.
Shawn Miller, 20, of Montgomery, Illinois, was killed. Leroy Starks, a 17-year-old youth from Chicago, survived, but was paralyzed. Another person, Marilou Alvarado, escaped unharmed, saying the gunman pointed his weapon at her and pulled the trigger, but no bullets were fired.
Within 48 hours, Alvarado and Starks had identified 19-year-old Jonathan Moore, of Aurora, as the gunman and he was charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder. Moore denied firing the shots, but police said he placed himself at the scene.
At trial in 2002 in Kane County Circuit Court, Alvarado testified that when the shooting started, she grabbed Starks and they fell to the ground. She identified Moore as the gunman, saying that “when I—I was down, I was looking at him, he had the gun pointed toward me, clicking it.”
Alvarado testified that Starks told her not to leave him and that Miller was lying on his back after being shot.
Starks’ testimony conflicted. He said that Alvarado had left to make a telephone call before the shooting erupted and was not present at the time of the shooting. He testified that he saw Miller crawling toward a restaurant after being shot and that he told Alvarado, when she returned from making the phone call, to summon help.
Despite the conflicts, on August 23, 2002, a jury convicted Moore of murder and two counts of attempted murder and he was sentenced to 75 years in prison.
On November 12, 2004, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld the convictions, but reduced his prison sentence to 70 years.
In April of 2011, a team of detectives from the Aurora Police Department met with a confidential source who claimed to have information about “old cases” in Aurora.
The confidential source told the detectives that Moore was not involved in the shooting and provided details of the shooting that had never been made public.
The detectives began re-investigating the case. They identified and interviewed others who had knowledge of the shooting. Some of them were old witnesses who were re-interviewed and some were new witnesses they discovered.
The new information convinced authorities that Moore was not the gunman and was not even at the scene of the shooting.
The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office approached the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield and provided them with the new evidence.
On March 6, 2012, Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon presented a motion to vacate the conviction in Kane County Circuit Court.
Moore, 30, did not know what was about to happen when he was brought to court in shackles. Moments later, the conviction was vacated, the charges were dismissed and he was released.
McMahon said that the confidential source had provided leads that “led police and prosecutors to conclude that significant doubt exists as to Jonathan Moore’s role in the shooting.”
In February 2013, police detectives John Munn and Darrell Moore were named the Aurora Police Department's 2012 Employees of the Year for their work in exonerating Moore.
In March 2013, Moore, who changed his name to Jonathan Grayson, filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit. In March 2014, Moore was granted a certificate of innocence in Kane County Circuit Court. In February 2016, he settled his federal lawsuit for $2.65 million plus $350,000 in legal fees.
– Maurice Possley