In the early morning hours of May 4, 1998, John Brown III, accompanied by a friend, Michael Alvarado, drove into the parking lot of a supermarket in San Antonio, Texas, and pulled up next to a group of young women to chat. Another car then pulled up in front of Brown’s custom-designed Toyota Camry and a man emerged, had words with Brown and fired a pistol, wounding Brown in the chest.
Brown, 19, slumped forward onto the steering wheel and the car shot forward as his foot was lodged on the gas pedal. Alvarado, 25, managed to stop the car, pulled Brown into the passenger seat and then drove out of the lot and flagged down a police car. Brown was dead upon arrival at a hospital.
Alvarado told police that after cruising around that night, they were stopped at an intersection when they encountered a white car driven by a woman with passengers in the front and back. According to Alvarado, Brown spoke to a rear seat passenger and then they drove off, feeling uneasy about the people in the other car, and the white car went in another direction.
At another intersection, they saw a car full of young women and both cars pulled into the supermarket lot because Brown wanted to exchange telephone numbers, Alvarado said.
At that moment, the white car that had made them uneasy also pulled into the lot, he told police. Two men got out and one asked Brown if he wanted to buy some marijuana. When Brown tried to “blow them off,” one of the men pulled a pistol and shot Brown, Alvarado said.
A police artist made a sketch based on Alvarado’s description. He said that the gunman was 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet, 9 inches tall.
The sketch aired on two Crime Stoppers reports on television, but no leads were generated. Brown’s mother drew her own sketch of the suspect based on the sketch aired on the reports and began showing them to people she met.
Several months later, when Brown’s mother made a visit to a hospital, she showed it to a nurse, who told her the sketch resembled Andre Haygood, with whom she had gone to high school.
The mother told police of the conversation and they put together a photographic lineup that included a photo of Haygood, a 24-year-old a street gang member with two prior convictions for possession of narcotics. Alvarado was shown the photographic lineup and immediately picked Haygood as the gunman.
On November 5, 1998, police arrested Haygood and charged him with Brown’s murder.
Haygood went on trial on May 1, 2002 in Bexar County District Court. Alvarado identified Haygood as the gunman, although he later would testify that he was startled to see that Haygood was 6 feet, 2 inches tall—considerably taller than his initial description.
Haygood offered alibi evidence that he arrived in San Antonio around midnight and drove to his father’s house where he borrowed his father’s truck and left to visit the mother of his children. Haygood’s stepsister testified that he returned to his father’s house at about 1:45 or 2 a.m.—about the same time the shooting occurred.
On May 8, 2002, the jury convicted Haygood and he was sentenced to life in prison and fined $10,000.
Months later, Haygood filed a motion for a new trial, alleging that a prison inmate named Sean Jones told another inmate, Lucas Huckleberry, that someone else—not Haygood—was the gunman.
A hearing was held and Jones invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself and refused to answer any questions. Huckleberry was called and the prosecution objected that his testimony was hearsay. The judge allowed Huckleberry to testify to permit development of the record.
Huckleberry said that while he and Jones were watching television in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, Jones told him he and another friend were in a vehicle driven by his girlfriend when they saw a Camry. Jones said the friend in the back seat exchanged looks with the driver of the Camry. Jones said he told his girlfriend to slow down to avoid a confrontation because his friend had a pistol.
Jones said that minutes later when they saw the Camry in the supermarket parking lot, he told his girlfriend to drive over to it. Huckleberry said Jones told him that the friend wanted to carjack the Camry for the wheel rims. When they reached the Camry, Jones said the friend jumped out of the car and shot Brown. Jones said that after the shooting, the passenger in Brown’s car got out, pulled Brown into the passenger seat and drove off.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge found the testimony was inadmissible hearsay and denied the motion for a new trial.
Haygood’s conviction was upheld by the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals on November 12, 2003.
Subsequently, Haygood filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus and in 2006, a federal judge ordered the state to hold a hearing to determine the legitimacy and scope of Jones’ Fifth Amendment privilege.
At the hearing, Jones again invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to testify about any conversation with Huckleberry or where he was on the night of the shooting. He did admit that he was a member of a gang that was a rival of the gang to which Haygood belonged.
Huckleberry testified again about his conversation with Jones.
Alvarado testified that he was “shocked” when he came to Haygood’s trial and saw how tall he was. He admitted that when he identified Haygood at trial, he was identifying him as the one he selected from the lineup. He said that at the time of his initial identification, police did not tell him that Haygood was from five to seven inches taller that his description of the gunman.
When shown photographs of Haygood and Jones, Alvarado said Jones looked more like the gunman than Haygood.
Alvarado also testified that Huckleberry provided details (which came from Jones) that had never been revealed publicly. These details included that he and Brown had encountered the white car prior to the shooting and that he had pulled Brown out of the driver’s seat.
Alvarado said he no longer believed Haygood was the gunman.
In October 2009, 186th District Court Judge Maria Teresa Herr set aside Haygood’s conviction and ordered a new trial.
On November 17, 2010, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the decision. On March 11, 2011, the Bexar County District Attorney dismissed the charges and Haygood was released.
– Maurice Possley