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Charlie Mitchell

Other Michigan Cases with Perjury or False Accusations
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On the night of October 3, 1988, a fight broke out in 34-year-old Charlie Mitchell’s kitchen in Detroit, Michigan. Raymond Harlin was shot in the neck and back. Though severely wounded, he managed to jump from the third floor kitchen window and hail a cab to Henry Ford Hospital where he died soon after.
 
Mitchell and two other men, Lamont Mason and Antonio Moore, were charged with first-degree murder.
 
The three men went on trial at the same time in Wayne County Circuit Court. Separate juries were empanelled for Mason and Mitchell. Moore elected to have his case decided by a judge instead of a jury.
 
Prior to trial, Mitchell wrote six separate letters to the trial judge, the chief judge and others asking that his lawyer, Gerald Evelyn, be replaced. Mitchell said that Evelyn did not visit him a single time and that he had not had an opportunity to speak with Evelyn in court.
 
On April 27, 1989, 11 days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in Wayne County Circuit Court, the trial judge held a hearing on a motion filed by Mitchell to remove Evelyn. Evelyn did not appear—he had been suspended from the practice of law for one month. The motion was taken under advisement because Evelyn was not there.
 
On May 8, 1989, the day jury selection commenced, Evelyn was present—his suspension from the bar had ended the day before. But the next day, May 9, Mitchell again asked to remove Evelyn because Evelyn had failed to visit him in jail the night before as he had promised. The motion was denied.
 
The prosecution contended that Mitchell was the head of a drug-trafficking ring, and that Harlin and others used his apartment as a base to sell drugs out of the building lobby.
 
Tyrone Thompson, a drug seller, testified for the prosecution that when he arrived in the kitchen Moore and Harlin were fighting, because Moore did not like the way Harlin was looking at him. Thompson said he saw a gun on a window sill and that he took it. He said Mitchell declared, “Shoot a hole in his (Harlin’s) heart.”
 
Thompson explained that at about that time, Mason - another drug dealer - arrived at the apartment and that despite Mitchell’s statement he thought the situation had calmed down so he put down the gun. But almost immediately, Thompson testified, Mason picked it up and shot Harlin in the neck and back.
 
Evelyn did not present an opening argument, and Mitchell, who had prior convictions for narcotics possession and assault, did not testify. Evelyn did not call any defense witnesses.
 
At the close of the prosecution’s case, Evelyn moved for a directed verdict of acquittal. The trial judge granted the motion in part by reducing the charge to second-degree murder. On May 17, 1989, Mitchell was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. Mason was acquitted and Moore was convicted of felony assault and sentenced to probation.
 
On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals remanded Mitchell’s case for a hearing on whether Evelyn had provided a constitutionally inadequate defense. At the hearing, two other people who were present at the time of the murder—neither involved in the drug ring—testified that there was no gun on the window sill, that the fight was between Moore and Harlin, and that Mitchell never told anyone to shoot Harlin. The witnesses said they were never contacted by Evelyn about testifying at the trial. Despite the testimony, Mitchell’s motion for a new trial based on his lawyer’s inadequate defense was denied.
 
In 1998, Mitchell filed a petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus arguing that Evelyn’s defense was constitutionally defective. In 1999, a U.S. District Court Judge agreed. The judge granted the petition, vacated Mitchell’s conviction and ordered a new trial.
 
In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the decision. The prosecution petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and the case was remanded back to the Sixth Circuit for reconsideration in light of a ruling in another case. In 2003, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals again upheld the decision to grant Mitchell a new trial. The court declared that it was “convinced that the undisputed amount of time that Evelyn spent with Mitchell prior to jury selection and the start of trial — approximately six minutes spanning three separate meetings in the bullpen, when viewed in light of Evelyn's month-long suspension from practice immediately prior to trial — constituted a complete denial of counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings.”
 
By then, Mitchell was out of prison—he was granted parole in October 2001. On February 16, 2006, the charges against Mitchell were dismissed.
 
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/24/2014
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1988
Convicted:1989
Exonerated:2006
Sentence:10 to 15 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:34
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No