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Diallo Corley

Other Wayne County, Michigan exonerations with mistaken witness identification
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Diallo_Corley.jpeg
On April 21, 2014, 24-year-old Calvin Wray was shot several times as he stood on Avalon Street in Highland Park, Michigan, located within the city of Detroit. He managed to survive despite wounds in his neck, right hand, upper chest, right leg, right thigh, and testicle.

Wray eventually identified 23-year-old Diallo Corley as the gunman, although at the time of the shooting, Wray only said he “knew of” Corley because they both lived in Highland Park. He did not identify him, however, until July 21, 2014.

He said that he was standing on the sidewalk when a red Mercury Mountaineer driving on the wrong side of the street came up behind him. He said that the vehicle came to a stop and the driver—who he now said was Corley—pointed a handgun out of the window and fired. He said that after the vehicle sped off, a friend, Anthony Day, came to assist him and called for help.

Corley was arrested on August 8, 2014 and charged with assault with intent to commit murder, felonious assault, discharging a weapon from a vehicle, and illegal possession of a firearm.

In June 2015, Corley went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court. Wray recounted how he was shot and said that he recognized Corley, who had facial hair and long dreadlocks, when he stuck a revolver out of the window and shot him. Wray testified that he identified Corley in a photographic array, and he then identified him in court. He said that it was possible that he was shot because Corley was still jealous that Wray had been named homecoming king several years earlier when they were in high school.

Wray admitted that he told a therapist that he had been shot in a robbery, and that he had lied about his middle name during a preliminary hearing in the case. In addition, the defense noted that the initial police report said that the identity of the gunman—as well as the gunman’s sex, race, and hairstyle were “unknown.” Wray also admitted that his initial statement to police described the gun as a “dark automatic.” The defense contended Wray changed his description to a revolver because no shell casings—which would have been ejected by a semi-automatic pistol—were found at the scene.

Anthony Day testified that he was at a barbeque in the backyard at Wray’s house when he heard five or six shots, ran to the front, and saw Wray on the ground in front of a neighbor's house. Day said that Wray told him that “Diablo” had shot him. Day admitted that when he testified at a preliminary hearing, he said that Wray only said, “Don’t let me die, bro. Don’t let me die.” Asked during cross-examination why he never told anyone prior to the trial that Wray mentioned the name “Diablo,” a name never associated with Diallo, Day said, “I don’t know.”

The prosecution rested its case after Wray and Day testified. The defense presented no witnesses and argued that Wray and Day were not credible witnesses.

On June 9, 2015, the jury convicted Diallo of assault with intent to murder, felonious assault, firing a weapon from a vehicle, and illegal possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 22 to 32 years in prison.

In November 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals, acting on a motion by Corley’s attorney, Craig Daly, remanded the case back to the trial court for a hearing on newly discovered evidence.

Tarryl Johnson testified during the hearing that he had come to the neighborhood where the shooting occurred for a “meet and greet” with a man he met online. When he came to the house and discovered it was unfurnished except for a mattress, however, he left.

Johnson said he was walking on Avalon when he saw a man come to the street from between two houses and taunt another man standing on the sidewalk. The man he was taunting began to run away. Johnson said the man who had come from between the houses then fired several shots and fled on foot. He said the gunman was a skinny dark-skinned black man, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with short hair. Johnson said the gunman was not Corley, who was light-skinned, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and about 200 pounds.

Johnson was tracked down through a Facebook profile after a family friend approached Corley’s mother at a funeral to ask how Corley was doing. When she said that he was in prison for a shooting, the friend said he knew someone who had seen the shooting and provided Johnson’s Facebook name. Johnson admitted that he had previously been convicted of armed robbery and served 18 years in prison.

Stanley Davis testified that on the night of the shooting, he was in the back of his house on Avalon Street working on his van when he heard several gunshots. He said he came out and saw Wray on the street. Davis said he was the first person to reach Wray and that Wray “was dying” and in no condition to speak. He said Wray “wasn’t trying to say nothing.” Contradicting Wray’s account, Davis said no others came to help Wray and that he never saw a red Mountaineer.

Judge James Callahan denied the defense request for a new trial in 2016. He ruled that because Johnson had a criminal record, his credibility was questionable. As a result, he ruled, his testimony would not have resulted in an acquittal for Corley. Judge Callahan said that a result other than conviction “would not be probable.”

In December 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Callahan’s decision. However, in April 2019, the Michigan Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-to-2, vacated Corley’s convictions and ordered a new trial. The court held that Judge Callahan’s decision was erroneous. “The prosecution’s evidence was not overwhelming, and the new witness’s testimony would have undermined that evidence significantly,” the court said. “Notwithstanding his criminal record, this disinterested witness’s detailed account makes a different result probable on retrial.”

On April 12, 2019, Corley was released on bond pending a retrial.

The following January, Corley went to a trial for a second time. On January 29, 2020, a jury acquitted him.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/18/2020
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Attempted Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault, Gun Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2014
Convicted:2015
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:22 to 32 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No