Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Charles Perry, Jr.

Other Oakland County, Michigan exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Oakland_County_MI.png
On July 5, 1990, 29-year-old Charles Perry Jr. was charged with raping a 19-year-old woman on May 12, 1990 in Oakland County, Michigan.

In November 1990, on the day Perry’s trial was scheduled to begin in Oakland County Circuit Court, his defense lawyer asked to withdraw saying the case was not ready for trial. That motion was denied after the trial judge said Perry would have to go ahead with the trial representing himself and Perry declined.

The prosecution then moved to bar the defense from eliciting testimony that the complainant took mescaline, a psychedelic comparable to LSD, on the day of the alleged rape, arguing that it was not relevant. Perry’s defense lawyer said that it was relevant because it was a mind-altering drug. The judge said he wouldn’t allow that evidence to come before the jury unless an expert testified about the impact of taking mescaline.

The defense lawyer asked if such testimony would be allowed if he brought in an expert during the trial. The judge said, “Well, today we’re going to introduce to the prospective jury panel the participants in the trial. So, if you don’t have anybody at this time, then there’s nobody to call later.”

The complainant testified that she had known Perry for about 2½ years and she had been to his house 30 or 40 times, but she had never lived with him or had a sexual relationship with him. She said that on the night of May 12, 1990, she went to the Rockaway Café with her date, Michael Gross. There, she saw Perry, whom she knew by the nickname “The Bopper,” who was with a friend, Chip Wilson.

The complainant testified that she left the bar with Perry and Wilson—not her boyfriend—and Wilson was dropped off at his home. She said Perry then drove to a deserted location where he slapped her, ripped her clothing, and raped her.

Perry testified in his own defense and said that he met the woman in 1987. He said they began dating in 1988 and that they had sex on the third date. He said that he did not know where she lived, but that he usually located her by calling one of several telephone numbers that she gave him. He said that eventually she moved in with him and they lived together for about six to eight months, but split up because her periodic absences made maintaining a stable relationship difficult. He said he had not seen her for an extended period because he stopped going to bars as frequently as he had in the past.

Perry said that on the night of May 12, 1990, he and Wilson worked out at a Vic Tanny gym and left around 9:30 p.m. to go to the bar. After seeing the woman at the Rockaway, she invited him to a party. When they left the bar, she was rubbing his leg and kissing him. After dropping off Wilson, Perry testified, they had consensual sex. When he took her home, her boyfriend was waiting angrily.

Wilson testified that the complainant asked Perry for a ride from the bar. Wilson said that the woman was straddling the front console and every time Perry stopped for a stop sign or traffic light, she would kiss him. When the woman asked Perry to take her to a party, Wilson asked to be dropped off at his home.

On November 21, 1990, the jury convicted Perry of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison.

While the case was on appeal, it was remanded back to the trial court for a hearing on a motion for new trial based on the failure of his defense attorney to present an adequate legal defense.

At an evidentiary hearing, two witnesses testified that in 1991, the complainant had admitted that her rape claim as false and that a detective pressured her to testify. Two other witnesses—who would have testified at Perry’s trial if called—said they would have said that the complainant lived with Perry in 1988—contrary to her trial testimony. In addition, another witness testified that the woman had falsely accused him of rape in the past.

Perry’s trial defense attorney said that he attempted to withdraw on the opening day of trial because, when he told Perry that he was not ready because some of the defense witnesses had not been contacted, Perry tried to fire him. He admitted that he had not contacted all the witnesses that Perry told him about who were willing to testify for Perry.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the motion for a new trial was denied. However, in July 1994, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial.

The court said that the trial prosecutor had improperly cross-examined Perry with facts that were not in evidence, and later argued to the jury that those facts that were not in evidence showed that Perry was not telling the truth.

As an example, the prosecutor attacked Perry for testifying that he left the Vic Tanny Gym at 9:30 p.m., just before it closed at 10 p.m. “What if I told you that we just called Vic Tanny’s and they told us on Saturdays for as long as they remember, they close at 6:00—what would you have to say about that? Other than someone is lying and I don’t think it’s Vic Tanny’s?”

When Perry did not respond, the prosecutor said, “I don’t think you have anything to say, other than you are lying to (the jury).”

The prosecutor later claimed that a detective went to the house where Perry said he lived at the time and that it was on a different side of the street than Perry said it was. In addition, the prosecutor referred to sworn affidavits but never presented the affidavits or the persons who had signed the statements.

The appeals court noted that the prosecutor did not present testimony from the detective or anyone who called Vic Tanny’s gym. And during closing argument, the prosecutor said that Perry was “lying through his teeth.”

The prosecutor mocked and ridiculed Perry, at one point suggesting that his nickname “The Bopper” was the result of violent behavior, although Perry said he was given the nickname as a toddler because he jumped up and down so much in his crib. The prosecutor referred to the complainant as “the little trollop that she is” to suggest that was how Perry considered her.

The appeals court cited other instances of improper comments by the prosecutor and noted that Perry’s defense attorney failed to object to them or to the prosecutor’s improper closing argument.

The court said that Perry’s credibility was “unquestionably compromised” by the prosecutor’s “unsupported evidence.” The court also said it was troubled by “the prosecutor’s consistent tendency toward mockery and ridicule, if not invective.” The court concluded that the “prosecutor’s misconduct denied defendant his right to cross-examination and to a fair trial” and that Perry’s defense attorney “committed prejudicial error in failing to object to the prosecutor’s actions.”

On February 3, 1995, Perry was released on bond pending a retrial. On June 28, 1996, a jury, after hearing from Perry’s witnesses, acquitted him on all of the charges.

In May 2018, Perry filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 4/29/2020
State:Michigan
County:Oakland
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1990
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:1996
Sentence:20 to 40 years
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No