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Gary Montgomery, Jr.

Other Wayne County, Michigan Exonerations
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On the evening of February 11, 2015, 24-year-old Dwayne Drake arrived at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan with a gunshot wound in the shoulder. Drake told police that he was sitting in the passenger seat of a car at a red light at the intersection of Joy Road and Dexter Avenue when two men got out of another car and approached both sides of the vehicle.

Drake said that the man at the driver’s side demanded that the driver, Chris, hand over his Cartier White Buffalo glasses—which cost more than $1,700. As the other man approached the passenger side, Chris sped off. Both men fired shots at the vehicle. Drake said that one bullet shattered glass, which embedded in his face, and another bullet struck his shoulder.

The following day, February 12, 2015, Drake gave the same account of the shooting to a Detroit police detective who came to Drake’s home. Drake’s roommate, Dujuan Green, told the officer that Drake came home from the hospital the night before and said he had been shot at “Joy Road and Dexter.”

However, on February 18, 2015, by the time Drake appeared before a Wayne County grand jury, he had a different story. Drake said that his prior accounts—that he was shot by an unknown person—were false and after talking to his father, he went to the police and named his attackers. He said he had lied initially because he was afraid of retaliation. Drake told the grand jury that he was walking on the street near his residence when three men approached. He said that one of them, Jamie Nathan, slapped him in the face, causing his sunglasses to shatter. Drake said that he fled and was shot from behind.

Drake said he knew Nathan, who was an aspiring rap artist. After viewing YouTube videos of Nathan, he recognized someone in one of the videos—18-year-old Gary Montgomery, Jr.–as one of his assailants. He said he recognized him because he had a chipped tooth.

Montgomery was arrested and charged with assault with intent to commit murder, armed robbery, and use of a firearm.

He went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in June 2015 and chose to have his case heard by a judge without a jury. Drake testified that Montgomery was carrying a handgun when he, Nathan, and another man approached him. He said that Nathan slapped him, causing his glasses to shatter and cut him below his eye. Nathan then grabbed the glasses and snatched a gold chain from Drake’s neck.

Drake said that as he ran away, he heard three gunshots. Drake said one bullet pierced his arm and shoulder and another grazed his head.

Drake testified that he ran to his mother-in-law’s house, but she wouldn’t open the door and told him to stay outside. A cousin then drove him to the hospital. Records showed that a security guard called police at 7:19 p.m.

Montgomery testified that he was watching television at his sister’s house, which was located near the location where Drake said he was shot. He denied involvement in the shooting. The defense presented records showing that at 6:57 p.m., police in Dearborn, Michigan stopped Nathan for a traffic violation and arrested him for possession of marijuana. Montgomery was not with Nathan at the time of the traffic stop.

On June 10, 2015, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Megan Maher Brennan convicted Montgomery of assault with intent to commit murder, armed robbery, and illegal use of a firearm. Brennan sentenced Montgomery to 13 to 32 years in prison.

Nathan, who had also been charged, went to trial in August 2015 and also chose to have the case heard by a judge. Drake again testified that Nathan, Montgomery, and a third man jumped him. However, he testified that he knew Montgomery by name—not just by his chipped tooth—from the neighborhood. And though Drake testified at Montgomery’s trial that he had heard someone—he didn’t know who—shout to “Get that ------!” just before the shots were fired, at this trial Drake said Nathan gave the order to shoot.

Nathan presented records showing that police had stopped and arrested him in Dearborn at about the same time as the shooting, and that they then took him to the Dearborn police lockup.

Tanisha Boyd—Nathan’s girlfriend—and Alexander Clements were in the car with Nathan at the time of the traffic stop. They also testified and corroborated the timeline. The defense presented evidence that buttressed Clements’s testimony that just prior to the traffic stop, they had been at a liquor store in Dearborn where he cashed a check—rebutting the prosecution claim that the traffic stop occurred just after Nathan robbed Drake.

The defense also presented testimony from Maurice Boyer, who said that on the night of the shooting, he was with Drake and others when Drake got a telephone call. Drake left in his vehicle, followed by Boyer and another friend in another car.

Boyer said that he did not come forward prior to Montgomery’s trial because he had outstanding arrest warrants. He testified that at Joy Road and Dexter Avenue, another car pulled up behind Drake’s car and Drake then sped off, although the traffic light was still red. The car chased Drake and several shots were fired at Drake’s car. Boyer said he did not follow for fear of being shot. Not long after, Boyer said he saw Drake speed down a nearby street and park between two abandoned homes.

Boyer said that a window of Drake’s car had been shot out, and that Drake was screaming that he had glass in his eye. Boyer testified that he helped Drake out of the car and walked him home. Drake’s girlfriend then drove him to the hospital.

Boyer also testified that Montgomery used to live with Drake, but had moved out after a falling out over cell phones. Boyer said that the day after the shooting, Drake admitted that he had stolen a truck and that the shooting occurred after the truck owner’s relative chased Drake in a car.

Boyer further testified that Drake said he falsely accused Montgomery and Nathan. When asked if Drake had a job, Boyer responded, “Stealing.”

On September 4, 2015, Judge Qiana Lillard acquitted Nathan. Judge Lillard said that Drake “is a liar and the truth ain’t in him, and I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth. He lies to suit himself, whenever it is convenient.”

In August 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals remanded Montgomery’s case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing after Valerie Newman and Michael Waldo, attorneys in the Michigan State Appellate Defender office, presented new evidence of Montgomery’s innocence.

At a hearing in November 2016, Chad Sobodash, a board certified optician, testified that he examined the medical records from Drake’s treatment at Henry Ford Hospital. Sobodash said that the glass that was removed from Drake did not come from his designer sunglasses because sunglasses are made from polyamide. Polyamide is a form of plastic that does not shatter that way window glass from a vehicle does. In fact, Sobodash testified that the lenses used in the Cartier glasses could withstand a 7-millimeter bullet fired from 50 feet away without breaking.

The defense presented transcripts from Nathan’s trial of the testimony of Boyer, Boyd, and Clements. In addition, Nathan testified that he was not involved in Drake’s shooting—as Drake had claimed.

In February 2017, Judge Brennan vacated Montgomery’s convictions and granted him a new trial based on the new evidence.

On July 24, 2017, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges and Montgomery was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/2/2017
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2015
Convicted:2015
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:13 to 32 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No