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Kaveo Salters

Other Wayne County, Michigan CIU exonerations
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On April 11, 2012, 17-year-old Jonas Johnson was shot and wounded when an attempted sale of imitation Cartier sunglasses went wrong in Detroit, Michigan.

Prior to the shooting, Johnson told some friends, including Darrius Maxwell, that he wanted to sell the sunglasses. On the day of the shooting, Maxwell called Johnson to say he had a buyer and was coming to Johnson’s home.

Johnson later told police that a white car pulled up in front of his house with the passenger side door next to the curb. He walked up to the car and took the sunglasses from their box. As he was discussing the price with the passenger, the driver took a black handgun from either the car’s center console or its floor, pointed it at him, and told him to throw the sunglasses into the car.

Johnson said he turned and fled. As he was running away, he heard two gunshots and was wounded in the arm.

A few days later, a friend of Johnson’s pointed to a photograph on Facebook of 17-year-old Kaveo Salters. Johnson decided he was the gunman. He did not know who the front and two back seat passengers were.

On April 17, 2012, after Johnson identified Salters in a photographic array, police arrested Salters. He was charged with assault with intent to murder, assault with intent commit bodily harm, armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, and using a firearm in the commission of a felony.

In September 2012, Salters went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court.

The prosecution’s case was primarily based on the testimony of Johnson, who identified Salters as the person who pointed the gun at him.

Johnson admitted that he had not identified Salters at a preliminary hearing, but the prosecution elicited testimony that Johnson believed that Maxwell had set up the robbery and had threated Johnson not to testify.

The defense presented witnesses who said that both Salters and Maxwell were at a party at the time of the shooting. The witnesses said that Maxwell and two others had left during the party and came back later.

On September 25, 2012, the jury convicted Salters on all charges. Prior to sentencing, Salters’s defense attorney moved for a new trial. The motion said that Salters had taken a polygraph examination and the examiner concluded that Salters showed no deception when he denied involvement in the crime. The motion also claimed that Martez Ellis was the driver of the car and the gunman. The defense further contended that Ellis’s girlfriend owned the car and that Terrence Vann was the passenger who demanded that Johnson throw the sunglasses into the back seat.

The motion was denied and Salters was sentenced to 27 to 42 years in prison. While the case was on appeal, Salters sought to remand the case to the trial court for a hearing based on affidavits from two people who said Salters was not involved.

In one affidavit, Joshua Willis asserted that he met Terrence Walton in Oakland County jail, where Walton confessed to the robbery and shooting. In the other, Brionna Shannon stated that she saw Walton at a shopping mall and he confessed to the crime. Shannon recorded the conversation.

The Michigan Court of Appeals refused to remand the case for a hearing on those claims, but did order the trial court to resentence Salters after vacating his conviction for assault with intent to commit bodily injury. Salters was resentenced to 22 to 37 years in prison.

In April 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Salters’s convictions. In January 2015, Salters filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. That petition was denied in October 2017 and his request for leave to appeal was denied as well.

In March 2018, Salters wrote to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit. In 2019, the case was assigned to attorney Carole Stanyars for a re-investigation.

On December 6, 2019, the Conviction Integrity Unit requested that Salters’s convictions be vacated.

The prosecution said it had uncovered evidence demonstrating that Terrance Walton was the shooter and Demontez Pinson was the getaway driver, and that Darrius Maxwell participated in the scheme. Salters was not involved.

The prosecution said that at least six people detailed the movements of Walton and Pinson throughout the evening of the crime, culminating in Walton’s admission that he thought he shot someone. Maxwell admitted that he was in the back seat of Pinson’s car during the crime. According to the prosecution, Maxwell described accurately both Pinson and Walton, but claimed that he did not know their names and was “adamant” that Salters was not involved.

In addition, other witnesses said that Pinson and Walton were together throughout the evening and they left in a car with only Maxwell. When they returned, the witnesses said, Walton admitted his involvement.

The prosecution said that it had concluded that Salters was not present during the robbery and shooting, and played no role in planning or encouraging the crime.

On December 6, 2019, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Annette Walters dismissed the charges and Salters was released. In 2020, Saltersi filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan and was awarded $358,229.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/18/2019
Last Updated: 10/15/2020
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Assault, Gun Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2012
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:27 to 42 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:17
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No