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David Maples

Other Macomb County, Michigan exonerations
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On August 4, 1993, 25-year-old David Maples agreed to meet with 48-year-old James Murphy at a tavern in Roseville, Michigan to discuss the purchase of a truck for Maples’s construction company. The day ended with Maples’s arrest on conspiracy and delivery of cocaine charges for which he was wrongly convicted and spent more than 12 years in prison.

Maples and Murphy had met several years earlier while working construction, but lost touch. They had become reacquainted in the summer of 1993, when they were both in jail in St. Clair County, Michigan.

Maples was in custody for a probation violation and Murphy was facing a marijuana charge. Also in the jail were Robert McGee, who had been arrested for some traffic violations and Scott Christopher, who was charged with breaking and entering.

By the time Maples agreed to meet with Murphy to talk about the truck, they were both out of jail, as was McGee. In fact, McGee had begun spending time with Murphy and was attempting to persuade Murphy to engage in a cocaine deal. McGee was working as a confidential informant for the County of Macomb Enforcement Team (COMET), which was an anti-drug task force.

Maples had a suspended driver’s license, so he asked a friend, Larry Roberts, to drive him to meet Murphy. Roberts took him in a truck that he was trying to sell.

At the tavern, Murphy told Maples that he knew someone, an auto auctioneer, who might be able to help Maples get the truck he needed for his business. During their conversation, Murphy took a phone call at the bar and afterward said he could loan Maples $3,500 to buy the truck. The loan would be repaid in a few days when Maples was able to borrow the money from relatives.

They went outside to Murphy’s car to ensure that no one inside the bar would see the cash and decide to try to rob them. They stopped at Roberts’s truck so Maples could get a Pepsi, and then went to Murphy’s car, where Murphy gave him $3,500. At about the same time, Roberts went outside to show his truck to Roger Hurley, a man in the bar who appeared to be interested in the vehicle.

Not long after, Maples and Roberts left the bar. While stopped at a traffic light, they were rushed by men with guns. Maples thought it was a robbery and fled on foot.

However, the gunmen were not robbers but COMET officers. It turned out that Hurley was a COMET officer and he had purchased three ounces of cocaine from Murphy for $4,800 in cash in the bathroom of the tavern.

The COMET officers believed that Maples was Murphy’s source for the cocaine. He was adamant that he was not the source of any drugs and denied that he even discussed drugs with Murphy.

Maples was arrested, as were Murphy and Roberts. After a preliminary hearing, the charges against Roberts were dismissed for lack of evidence. Murphy and Maples were charged with conspiring to deliver a controlled substance and delivery of a controlled substance.

Murphy filed a motion claiming he was the victim of entrapment by McGee, the informant.

The full story came out at a hearing on the motion in February 1994 when Murphy testified that McGee kept talking to him about helping facilitate a drug sale. Christopher, who was present for some of the conversations between McGee and Murphy after their release from jail, testified that McGee wanted someone to deliver cocaine for him.

Murphy said that on the day he met with Maples, McGee called him at the bar and said the cocaine was outside in a McDonald’s restaurant wrapper. Murphy said he went outside, got the cocaine, and pursuant to McGee’s direction, gave it to Hurley in the bathroom of the tavern. In return, he was handed $4,800 in what turned out to be marked bills—$3,500 of which wound up in Maples’s hands.

Subsequently, Murphy wrote a letter that said, “I made arrangements to be met by my friend, Dave Maples, to discuss some upcoming roofing work we could both be involved in and to loan him some money so he could purchase a work truck. It is my understanding that [Maples] arranged for his friend Larry Roberts to give him a ride to the bar with the promise of gas money and a couple [of] drinks. I now state that neither Roberts [n]or Maples gave me any controlled substance, nor did they aid me in the delivery of such to any other individual.”

Maples joined in the motion for dismissal of the charges due to entrapment. The motion, however, was denied for both Maples and Murphy. Maples had made several motions for dismissal for lack of a speedy trial, but those also were denied.

On September 19, 1995, two days before the men were scheduled for trial in Macomb County Circuit Court, Murphy pled guilty. As part of the plea agreement, he was forbidden from testifying on Maples’s behalf. Murphy was later sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

By that time, Maples’s defense attorney had lost track of Roberts, who previously had said he would testify for Maples. On September 22, 1995, after a jury had been selected to hear Maples’s case—with two critical witnesses now unavailable—Maples agreed to plead no contest to the charge of delivery of a controlled substance.

Maples later contended that his defense lawyer assured him that even though he pled no contest, he still could appeal his case on the ground that his right to a speedy trial had been violated. Maples was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

His attempt to appeal on the speed trial violation was rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Maples subsequently filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was dismissed in the U.S. District Court, but in May 2005, the Sixth District U.S. Court of Appeals reversed and ordered Maples’s conviction vacated.

The appeals court concluded that Maples’s right to a speedy trial had been violated by delays caused by the prosecution and the trial judge. The court held that Maples had been adversely affected by the delay because he lost the availability of Murphy and Roberts as witnesses. Maples was also “prejudiced by his counsel’s deficient performance in advising him that he could simultaneously take the guilty plea and retain his speedy trial claim for appeal.”

On January 11, 2006, the prosecution dismissed the charge and Maples was released. He subsequently filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan, but the claim was denied.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/30/2020
Last Updated: 4/30/2020
State:Michigan
County:Macomb
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Convicted:1995
Exonerated:2006
Sentence:10 to 20 years
Race/Ethnicity:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No