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Alexandre Ansari

Other Wayne County, Michigan CIU exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Alexandre_Ansari%202.jpeg
On September 22, 2012, 23-year-old Rosalind Barley and her 15-year-old sister, Ileana Cuevas, drove to 4238 Cicotte Street in Detroit, Michigan, to pick up Barley’s boyfriend, 25-year-old Miguel Figueroa. Immediately after Figueroa entered the back seat of the vehicle, gunshots rang out.

Barley later told police she looked out of the passenger window and saw a man across the street holding a long gun. Figueroa jumped out of the car and ran, while Barley sped away to a nearby parking lot. There, Barley discovered she had been shot in the right shoulder and that Cuevas was dead.

While Figueroa was running, he was shot in the back and the leg. He later told police that when he turned around to see who was shooting, he was shot in the face. He collapsed after calling his sister, who drove over and took him to the hospital.

Barley said the gunman was a heavyset black man who weighed about 300 pounds. Figueroa, however, said the gunman weighed about 190 pounds. Police recovered shell casings which were determined to have been fired by an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle. Police interviewed two other witnesses that day—Erika Flores and Leola Marlowe, both of whom said they saw the gunman.

In early October, Detroit Police Officer Moises Jimenez had Figueroa work with a sketch artist to produce a drawing of the shooter. Subsequently, Jimenez said he learned through an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers that the shooter was nicknamed “Sosa.”

Jimenez determined that 28-year-old Alexandre Ansari—as well as several other men—had the nickname “Sosa.” Ansari, however, was about 175 pounds—less than Figueroa’s estimate and far less than Barley’s description.

Jimenez said he compared Ansari’s photograph with the sketch and created a photographic array for Figueroa and Barley to review. Ansari was the only person in the lineup who had Rastafarian-style hair, which is long braided dreadlocks. The other five men had either long hair, corn rows, or shorter dreadlocks.

On October 11, 2012, Figueroa was shown the array and identified Ansari as the shooter. On October 12, 2012, Barley was shown the same array, but she was unable to identify Ansari. Jimenez also showed the photographic array to Flores, who said that Ansari “kinda” looked like the gunman.

Nonetheless, Ansari was arrested on charges of murder, assault with intent to commit murder, and felony use of a weapon in the shooting of Barley, Figueroa, and Cuevas.

On November 19, 2012, the police held a live lineup in which all participants wore orange caps to cover their hair. Barley and Figueroa both identified Ansari as the gunman.

Prior to trial, the court denied a motion to suppress the identifications because of the suggestive photo array. On May 6, 2013, Ansari went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court. By that time, he had been charged with a second murder four days after the shooting of Figueroa, Barley, and Cuevas. In that shooting, on September 26, 2012, Figueroa’s brother, Tommy Edwards had been shot to death.

Figueroa and Barley both identified Ansari as the man who shot them. Figueroa testified that as he ran after being shot, he turned around “to get a good look at [the shooter] again,” and was then shot in the face. Flores was not called to testify.

The defense called an investigator who said that he canvassed the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. He was told the gunman’s nickname was “Big Sosa,” which was a variation of Ansari’s nickname and referred to a different man.

Leola Marlowe, who was in her home near Cicotte Street, testified that she heard gunshots and went out to call her grandchildren inside. She testified that she saw a man with a gun run down the alley from Cicotte Street, place the gun in the trunk of a car, and drive away. Marlowe testified that she knew Ansari from the neighborhood and he was not the person she saw running from the scene. She said the man weighed more than 300 pounds.

Over the defense objection, the trial court judge allowed the prosecution to call Jimenez as a rebuttal witness. Jimenez testified that when he interviewed Marlowe immediately after the shooting, she was nervous, shaky, and scared, as if to suggest that her testimony was less than reliable.

During closing arguments, the prosecution said it had no evidence regarding a motive for the shooting and that motive is not required to obtain a conviction.

On May 14, 2013, the trial judge declared a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

In September 2013, Ansari went to trial a second time. On September 13, he was convicted of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and felony use of a firearm. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In March 2014, Ansari went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court for the murder of Edwards. On March 12, 2014, a jury acquitted him of the charges.

In February 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Ansari’s convictions for the shooting of Barley, Cuevas, and Figueroa.

In 2016, Ansari filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In 2018, while that petition was pending, the Wayne County Prosecutors Office Conviction Integrity Unit began re-investigating the case.

The CIU investigation noted that the descriptions given by two people at the scene—Marlowe and a new witness interviewed by the CIU—of a 300-pound black male did not match the physical characteristics of Ansari. The CIU reviewed cell phone and surveillance data from a related federal investigation and concluded that there was no association between Ansari and the person believed by law enforcement to have orchestrated the shooting.

On March 12, 2019, the prosecution’s motion to vacate Ansari’s convictions was granted and the charges were dismissed. Ansari was released from prison. In 2020, Ansari filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan and was awarded $273,151 that year.

The case remained under investigation by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/18/2019
Last Updated: 10/15/2020
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2012
Convicted:2013
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Life without parole
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No