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Antoine Bankhead

Other St Louis City Exonerations
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On July 30, 2000, 27-year-old Demetrius Pascall was fatally shot during a robbery in the parking lot of a Schnucks supermarket in St. Louis, Missouri. Pascall had dropped off a cousin and was leaving in his car when he stopped to talk to two women. Witnesses said two men approached and tried to rob him.

Pascall got out of his car and resisted before fleeing. One of the robbers shot in him the back and he collapsed in the arms of a woman as he tried to get into the store. Witnesses said the two men got into Pascall’s car and drove out of the parking lot. At about the same time, a black Nissan Pathfinder also drove out of the parking lot and both vehicles were seen speeding away, driving side by side.

The following day, police spotted the Pathfinder, which had been stolen several days before Pascall’s murder. Police chased it and after it crashed, the driver, 18-year-old Alvin Washington, fled into a garage where police arrested him and recovered a handgun in the garage. Ballistics testing identified it as the gun used to kill Pascall. Police also recovered a bandana and a cap matching the description of items worn by the gunman and his accomplice.

That same day, police found Pascall’s car, which had been stripped and abandoned in an alley after an unsuccessful attempt to burn it. Police found Washington’s fingerprints on Pascall’s car.

According to an account of the case published simultaneously in The Marshall Project and The New Yorker in 2017, Washington told police that he had gone with three others to the supermarket to buy dog food.

He said that 19-year-old Martez Shadwick and 18-year-old Antoine Bankhead had decided to rob Pascall while Washington and the fourth person, 18-year-old I.V. Simms remained in the Pathfinder. Washington said that Shadwick shot Pascall, and that he and Bankhead then drove off in Pascall’s car.

Shadwick surrendered to police three days later, and on August 14, Bankhead and Simms were arrested. Shadwick, Bankhead, and Washington were charged with first-degree murder, robbery, and armed criminal action.

In September 2001, Washington pled guilty, admitting that he was with Shadwick when Shadwick shot Pascall. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Shadwick went to trial in St. Louis City Circuit Court in June 2002 and elected to have a judge hear the case without a jury. Prosecutor Robert Craddick presented five eyewitnesses who identified Shadwick as the gunman. Craddick asked two of them—the woman into whose arms Pascall had collapsed and her son—about the second robber. They both identified Washington.

Craddick did not ask the other three witnesses—a cashier, a saleswoman, and a nurse—if they could identify the second man. But Shadwick’s defense lawyer, on cross-examination, did ask the cashier and the saleswoman. The cashier said the second man was Washington. The saleswoman said she had not identified anyone. Neither the defense nor the prosecution asked the nurse about the second man.

Prior to the trial, Washington signed an affidavit saying that Shadwick and Bankhead were not involved in the crime. However, when it came time to testify for the defense, Washington refused.

During closing arguments, Shadwick’s attorney argued that the witnesses were mistaken and that Washington was the gunman. Shadwick, the defense argued, was not involved.

On June 20, 2002, the judge convicted Shadwick of first-degree murder, robbery, and two counts of armed criminal action. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Bankhead chose to have his case decided by a jury, and the trial was presided over by a different judge in July 2002. Craddick was again the prosecutor. In this trial, he argued that Shadwick had committed the crime with Bankhead—not Washington. Craddick did not call the woman and her son who had identified Washington during Shadwick’s trial.

Craddick did call the cashier, the saleswoman, and the nurse. Unlike at Shadwick’s trial when she testified the second man was Washington, the cashier now testified that the second man was Bankhead. The saleswoman, who said at Shadwick’s trial that she had been unable to identify the second person, now said the second person was Bankhead. And the nurse, who Craddick had never asked at Shadwick’s trial to identify the second person, now testified that the second man was Bankhead.

Bankhead’s attorney never questioned the witnesses about the change in their testimony. He did seek to call a corrections officer to testify that Washington had been overheard telling over inmates that he was the gunman, but the trial judge said such testimony would be hearsay and refused to allow it.

Craddick, during his closing argument, told the jury that it was “uncontradicted” that Bankhead was with Shadwick when Shadwick shot Pascall. Craddick argued that any claim by the defense that Washington was the second robber was a “smokescreen.”

On July 3, 2002, the jury convicted Bankhead of second-degree murder, robbery, and two counts of armed criminal violence. He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In 2003, after his convictions were upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals, Bankhead filed a post-conviction motion for a new trial. He claimed that prosecutor Craddick had committed misconduct by presenting different theories at separate trials—that Washington was the second robber in Shadwick’s trial and that Bankhead was the second robber in Bankhead’s trial.

As a result, Judge Joan Burger, who presided over Bankhead’s trial, learned for the first time what had been presented at Shadwick’s trial. In 2004, Burger vacated Bankhead’s convictions and ordered a new trial, ruling, “The state has convicted three people for the acts of two.”

The prosecution appealed and in 2006, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld Judge Burger’s decision. The court said that Craddick “selectively presented contradictory evidence and arguments in three different cases depending upon which defendant was before the trial court.”

On August 6, 2006, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

In 2011, Bankhead pled guilty to weapons charges stemming from a shooting in St. Louis and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/6/2017
State:Missouri
County:St. Louis City
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2000
Convicted:2002
Exonerated:2006
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:18
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No