In April 1990, Antonio Black, Jr., was sitting in the passenger seat of a car in the parking lot of Norland Senior High School in Miami, Florida, when another car pulled up, and a man inside aimed a Mac-9 semi-automatic pistol at the driver and fired a spray of bullets. The shots missed the driver, but Black was killed.
Immediately after the shooting, police were told that the gunman was named Lawrence. But without further evidence, the case remained unsolved until 1995, when a police informant said Darrian Mark Lawrence, 25, had admitted being the gunman.
Police found a witness to the shooting who identified Lawrence as the gunman in a photographic lineup. Lawrence was charged with first degree murder and firing a gun into an automobile.
He went on trial in Dade County Circuit Court in October 2000. The informant told the jury that Lawrence had admitted to the shooting. The witness identified Lawrence as the gunman.
On October 23, 2000, the jury convicted Lawrence, who had prior convictions for aggravated assault and robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
His conviction was set aside in 2002 by the Florida Court of Appeals, which found that prosecutors had improperly commented on Lawrence’s right not to testify during jury selection.
Mark Shapiro, an attorney in the law firm of Roy Black, was retained by family members to re-investigate the case.
By the time the case went to trial for a second time in November 2005, the informant who said Lawrence had admitted to the shooting had died. But Shapiro was able to show that the informant had a questionable reputation for telling the truth.
Shapiro was able to demonstrate that the eyewitness who had identified Lawrence as the gunman was standing in a spot that did not allow him to actually see the gunman.
More important, Shapiro found a police report of a statement made by a bystander not long after the shooting, saying that the gunman had gold teeth and had fired a Mac-9 from a blue van.
Shapiro discovered that a man named Kirk Lawrence, who had a history of involvement in the drug trade, had been murdered after the shooting. Shapiro found Kirk Lawrence’s autopsy and discovered that Lawrence had gold teeth. Records were located showing that, at the time that Black was murdered, Kirk Lawrence owned a blue van. Shapiro also found a police report of another shooting—also at a school—in which Kirk Lawrence had been charged with discharging a Mac-9 (no one was shot in that incident.)
On November 17, 2005, the jury acquitted Lawrence and he was released.
In 2011, Lawrence was arrested in Ohio after federal agents stopped his car and confiscated 34 kilograms of marijuana and a gun. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
– Maurice Possley