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Andre Ellis

Other Alabama Cases
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At about 11 p.m. on March 26, 2012, police were summoned to a hospital in Troy, Alabama by a woman who said she had been raped earlier in the day in her home in the Hunter’s Mountain trailer park.
 
The woman, who was identified as M.B., came to the hospital that afternoon and initially said that she had fallen on a doorstop as she was preparing to take a bath. Several hours later, she said she was preparing to take a bath when a man knocked on her door. When she answered, he came inside and raped her.
 
A week later, another woman who lived in the same trailer park, identified as Q.C., told police that she had been raped on the same day as M.B.
 
On April 25, 2012, police arrested 35-year-old Andre Ellis and charged him with both rapes and the burglary of M.B.’s residence. Ellis was well known to the police for a history of fraud and property crimes. He had prior convictions for theft and forgery and was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court on another pending theft charge. When he was taken into custody, he said, "The city of Troy is making a great mistake."
 
Ellis went to trial in January 2013 in Pike County Circuit Court. M.B. and Q.C. testified and identified Ellis as the man who raped them. M.B. testified that she would “never forget” her attacker’s eyes. There was no biological evidence linked to Ellis in either case. M.B. said her attacker wore a condom. Q.C. had not gone to a hospital or reported the alleged attacked until a week after it was said to have occurred.
 
The prosecution presented a surveillance video that showed Ellis, who also was a resident of the trailer park, driving into the trailer park at 4:41 and driving out 5 minutes and 53 second later.
 
At the close of the prosecution’s case, the prosecution disclosed that M.B.’s boyfriend said he and M.B. had sex earlier on the day of the alleged attack. During her testimony at the trial, M.B. had not been asked if she had sex with her boyfriend earlier that day, and the prosecution had never informed J. Carlton Taylor, Ellis’s defense attorney, that there was a boyfriend or that he had been interviewed. The defense then recalled M.B. and she admitted she had sex with her boyfriend earlier that day.
 
The defense also presented hospital records that indicated that the woman initially told the doctor that she had fallen on a doorstop while preparing to take a bath.
 
The jury convicted Ellis of both rapes and the burglary on January 18, 2013. He was sentenced to 85 years in prison.
 
Carlton then filed a motion seeking a new trial for Ellis, claiming that the prosecution had failed to disclose the police interview with the boyfriend. Carlton's motion claimed that during the interview, the police expressed doubts that M.B. was raped and the boyfriend expressed his doubts as well.
 
The trial judge, Circuit Court Judge Jeffery Kelly, ordered the prosecution to turn over all of its files in both rape cases for his own review.
 
In May 2013, Judge Kelly granted the defense motion, vacated Ellis’s convictions and ordered a new trial because the prosecution had failed to disclose to the defense substantial evidence of Ellis’s innocence.
 
The evidence that had not been disclosed included police reports showing that the officers initially developed a suspect identified as S.L.F and issued a subpoena for his telephone records after M.B. identified him in a lineup.
 
The prosecution files also had reports showing that at 4:45 p.m.—one minute before Ellis is seen on the surveillance video leaving the trailer park—M.B. received a text from her female roommate who asked how she was feeling. M.B. texted back that she felt terrible and was about to take a bath. Judge Kelly said that evidence strongly suggested Ellis was innocent.
 
Not until after the video surfaced did M.B. identify Ellis in a photographic lineup. Meanwhile, Q.C., after waiting a week to report being raped, didn’t identify Ellis until a month after the attack, even though she initially told police she recognized her attacker as a resident of the trailer park according to police reports that were not disclosed.
 
The judge said that the prosecution also failed to disclose to the defense that M.B.’s boyfriend told police that he was at the trailer and left around 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. for a baseball meeting. The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes and he said that when he called afterward, he discovered that M.B. was on the way to the hospital.
 
Judge Kelly said that M.B. gave conflicting statements to police that were also not disclosed to the defense. In one interview, she said the telephone she used to call her mother after she was attacked was in the bathroom. In another interview, she said it was in the kitchen.
 
Significantly, M.B. said in one interview that she kept her eyes closed during the entire attack and that she did not see the attacker’s face because she was afraid to open her eyes—directly contradicting her trial testimony that she would never forget her attacker’s eyes.
 
The prosecution also failed to disclose that M.B.’s mother and boyfriend had deleted the texts from M.B.’s phone and went back to the trailer and cleaned up blood in the bathroom before reporting to police that M.B. had been raped.
 
In his decision to vacate the convictions for both rapes, Judge Kelly said, “This court further finds that the suppression or nondisclosure was not intentional or malicious on the part of the state; however, this court continues to have much concern regarding the state’s search for the truth as the evidence disclosed in camera makes reference to other interviews and statements specifically (regarding) Q.C., the other rape victim, which have never been provided in camera to the court as specifically ordered by this court.”
 
The prosecution appealed Judge Kelly’s decision and in October 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling ordering a new trial. On November 20, 2014, the prosecution dismissed the charges.
 
Ellis remained in custody. He had pled guilty to the theft charge that was pending when he was arrested on the rape charges and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/10/2014
State:Alabama
County:Pike
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:2012
Convicted:2013
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:85 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No