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Everold Stewart

Other Dallas County Exonerations
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Michelle Chinn was shot in the head outside an apartment complex in Dallas, Texas at 2 a.m. on August 13, 1987. She was pronounced dead later that day at Baylor Medical Center.

During the initial investigation, the police learned that Chinn, who was at the complex with her boyfriend, Leroy Davidson, had been caught in an apparent crossfire shooting between two groups of men. At least one witness said the men were of Jamaican descent, based on their accents.

On August 18, the police received an anonymous call from a man who identified himself as “Sim.” He said three persons were involved in the shooting: a man known as “Big Dave;” David Anthony Matthews; and a third man, Everold Stewart (Matthews was arrested and charged with murder in August 1987. He was convicted in 1990.).

On October 8, 1987, Davidson told the police that a friend of his had seen Stewart at the Dallas County Jail and that “he had run the shooting down to him.” Stewart, then 19, was arrested on October 15, 1987 and also charged with murder. His trial in Dallas County Criminal Court began on January 4, 1988.

There was no physical or forensic evidence connecting Stewart to the shooting. The state’s case relied on testimony from Davidson and a cabdriver named Simon Gmenda, who had taken Davidson and Chinn to the apartments.

Davidson testified that he and Chinn had gone to the apartments to visit a friend of Chinn’s, and that they got caught between two groups of men shooting at each other. He said Stewart, whom he knew, had shot and killed Chinn. Gmenda also said he knew Stewart, and that he had seen him at the apartments with a gun just after the shots were fired.

Stewart was convicted by a jury on January 7, 1988 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released on December 3, 1990 and was on parole for nearly 12 years.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Stewart’s attorney, Gary Udashen began reviewing the case file with an assistant district attorney in Dallas County. The DA’s office then asked the Dallas Police Department for its full file and discovered that the prosecutor’s file was missing several documents. Among them were six pages of hand-written notes about the investigation, including early witness statements from Davidson and Gmenda that contradicted much of their testimony.

Although Davidson testified that he and Chinn had gone to the apartments to see a girlfriend of Chinn’s, he initially told police that they had gone there after hearing that a relative had been arrested. He also told police that he didn’t see who shot Chinn, but later he said Matthews had been the shooter. Davidson didn’t mention Stewart in these early interviews.

Gmenda told police he was two blocks away when the shooting happened. He said he drove back to the apartments and saw a man whom he thought had been in the alley where the shots came from. That man told police he wasn’t involved. Gmenda also never mentioned Stewart in his interview. At trial, he testified that his initial statement to police wasn’t accurate, but that statement, taken on the day of the shooting, wasn’t introduced as a vehicle to explore the inaccuracies.

Stewart filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Dallas County Criminal District Court on March 20, 2018, seeking to have his conviction vacated based on the suppression of exculpatory evidence. The petition was later amended to include affidavits from the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case and from Stewart’s trial attorney. Each said he had never seen the police notes; the prosecutor said that if he had seen the document, he would have turned it over to the defense to comply with court rulings requiring the state to make available all exculpatory evidence.

On April 24, 2018, Judge Robert Burns vacated Stewart’s conviction and remanded the case back to the trial court. The district attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was granted by Judge Tina Yoo Clinton on September 16, 2019.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 12/23/2019
State:Texas
County:Dallas
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Convicted:1988
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:25 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No