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Dietrich Richardson

Other Illinois Cases with Official Misconduct
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On the afternoon of June 22, 2010, two men, one of whom had a handgun, robbed 26-year-old Joshua Foster of his wallet and cell phone in the parking lot of JJ’s Fish and Chicken in Peoria, Illinois.

Police arrived at 4:49 p.m. Foster, who is white, said the robbers were black and that gunman was slightly taller than 5 feet 8 inches and had no facial hair. One was wearing a white t-shirt and a black ball cap and the other was wearing a black t-shirt and a dark ball cap.

After the description was broadcast by the police, two other officers curbed a vehicle nearby. Three male passengers fled, one holding his waistband as if he were running with a weapon. All three were wearing white t-shirts and one had a dark ball cap. Foster was taken to the scene where he viewed the driver and said he was not involved in the robbery.

On that same day, around 6:30 p.m., police went to the home of 22-year-old Dietrich Richardson and took him into custody for questioning in an unrelated crime that occurred on June 21—the day before Foster was robbed. Police picked up Richardson because a witness to that crime claimed that one of several men involved was nicknamed “Buddha” and police knew that Richardson had that nickname.

Richardson denied involvement in that crime and told police that he was with his girlfriend when it occurred. While Richardson was being held by police while they investigated his alibi, a newspaper published an article about that crime and published photographs of four people who were in custody. One of those photographs was Richardson.

On June 24, police verified Richardson’s alibi for June 21 and were preparing to release him, when they were informed that Foster had seen the photographs in the newspaper and said he recognized the photograph of Richardson as the man who robbed him at JJ’s.

Despite Richardson’s denial of involvement in the robbery of Foster, he was charged with armed robbery and illegal possession of a firearm on the strength of Foster’s identification of the newspaper photograph.

Richardson went to trial in Peoria County Circuit Court in September 2011. Foster testified and identified Richardson as the gunman, saying he was “(b)eyond a hundred percent” certain, even though Richardson was 6 feet 3 inches tall—about 7 inches taller than Foster initially described and the police photograph of Richardson showed him with facial hair.

The defense called Richardson’s grandmother, Dorothy Buckner, who testified she called Richardson at about 4:20 p.m. and asked him to pick her up at her home (more than 4 miles from JJ’s) and take her to a birthday party at a Red Lobster restaurant. Buckner said that Richardson arrived between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m. and drove her to a Walgreens drug store where she bought a birthday card and some calcium tablets. She said Richardson then drove her to the Red Lobster, arriving a little after 5 p.m.

Buckner told the jury that when she got out of the car, one of her co-workers, Jackie McKenzie, approached. Richardson got out of the car and talked to McKenzie briefly, then got back in and drove off.

A Walgreens cashier testified that she rang up the purchase and identified the receipt (which Buckner had saved). The cashier could not recall who made the purchase, however.

McKenzie testified that she was at the Red Lobster when Richardson arrived with Buckner. She told the jury that she spoke with Richardson for 15 to 20 minutes and then he left.

Richardson testified in his own defense and denied he robbed Foster. He said that on the day of the crime, he arrived at his grandmother’s house between 4:30 and 4:40 p.m. He said it was 10-minute drive from there to Walgreens. He waited while his grandmother made her purchase, then drove her to the Red Lobster where he chatted with McKenzie.

Richardson said that he drove from the Red Lobster to pick up his sister’s children from a daycare center. He took the children to his grandmother’s house where he babysat them until his sister, LaKeesha Buckner, came to pick them up. She arrived between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. and was still there when police arrived and arrested Richardson for the crime that occurred the day before the Foster robbery, which the police later realized he did not commit.

The prosecution then called several rebuttal witnesses. One of them, police officer Todd Leach, said he was sent to Richardson’s home and when he arrived, Richardson was coming out of the back door. Leach said that as he approached, Richardson ran inside and locked the door.

A detective testified that he questioned Richardson about the robbery and that Richardson, after denying involvement, “requested to just go back to the jail and not talk anymore.” Under questioning by the prosecutor, the detective said that Richardson never mentioned that he was with his grandmother at the Red Lobster or that McKenzie had seen him there.

The defense sought to call witnesses, including Richardson’s mother, who would have supported his alibi, but the trial judge refused to allow them to testify. Richardson’s mother would have testified that she usually picked up the children from daycare and cared for them until LaKeesha picked up them up, but she was at work that day, so she asked Richardson to pick them up. The defense also sought to introduce her timesheet showing she was at work that day, but the judge refused to allow that evidence as well.

During closing argument, the prosecutor contended that if Richardson was not involved in the crime that he would have told the detective who interrogated him that the officer should “go talk to my grandma….Get the surveillance video (from Red Lobster or Walgreens). Get everything. I gotta be on them.”

The prosecutor also suggested that the alibi was concocted, noting that none of the defense witnesses, including Richardson, had said anything about his alibi until a year after the crime.

On October 5, 2011, the jury convicted Richardson of armed robbery and illegal possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

In June 2014, the Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. The appeals court ruled that the prosecution had improperly elicited testimony from the detective and made improper arguments to the jury about Richardson’s failure to mention the alibi.

The court noted that evidence regarding a suspect’s silence after arrest is inadmissible in court and a violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. “The ban on references to a defendant’s post-arrest silence includes any references to the defendant’s failure to mention an alibi during police interrogation,” the court said. “Such references are improper.”

On June 16, 2014, Richardson was released on bond pending a retrial. He went to trial a second time in October 2015. His new lawyer, Maureen Williams, had gathered the evidence supporting Richardson’s alibi, including cell phone records from Richardson’s phone which showed the incoming call from his grandmother asking him to pick her up, his call to her when he arrived at her home to pick her up and calls regarding the pickup of his sister’s children at the daycare center. In addition, Williams had the employment records from Richardson’s mother showing she was at work on that day—the reason he picked up the children from daycare.

On November 2, 2015, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The prosecution, over the ensuing months, offered to dismiss the armed robbery and gun possession charges if Richard would plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct. Richardson refused, and on December 16, 2016, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/8/2017
State:Illinois
County:Peoria
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Gun Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2011
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:30 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No