Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Ru-El Sailor

Other Cuyahoga CIU Exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Ru-El_Sailor.jpg
In the early morning hours of November 17, 2002, 31-year-old Clark Lamar Williams and 31-year-old Omar Clark were walking down a street in Cleveland, Ohio, after a night of partying with friends when a car pulled up. Two men got out and began yelling at Williams for cheating 22-year-old Nichole Hubbard out of $10 in a drug purchase hours earlier.

Williams ran when Clark tried to intervene. One of the two men then shot Clark 11 times. Williams was shot once in the buttocks as he fled. The gunman and his partner then drove off.

After Williams told police about the dispute with Nichole Hubbard, detectives interviewed her. She admitted that she called her half-brother, 22-year-old Cordell Hubbard to complain, but claimed that her call went unanswered. A month later, Williams identified Cordell Hubbard from a photographic lineup as one of the two men. Cordell and Nichole Hubbard were arrested about a month after the shooting.

And in March 2003, Williams identified the gunman as 23-year-old Ru-El Sailor, who was Cordell Hubbard’s best friend.

On March 26, 2003, a grand jury indicted Sailor on charges of murder, kidnapping, and assault and he was arrested on April 4, 2003. Cordell and Nichole Hubbard were already under indictment on similar charges.

In May 2003, all three went to trial in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

The prosecution argued that on the evening of November 16, 2002, Williams and Clark were partying with Nichole and two other women—Maria Whitlow and Ellen Taylor—when Williams borrowed $20 from Nichole to buy more drugs. He agreed to pay her back when they returned to the neighborhood where they lived.

However, at the end of the night, Williams gave Nichole only $10 and began walking home with Clark. Nichole became angry and called Cordell.

Williams testified that he and Clark were walking on the street when Cordell and Sailor pulled up. He said that Cordell was angry with him for failing to pay the full $20 to Nicole. Williams said that when Clark intervened in an attempt to be a peacemaker, Sailor began shooting. Williams said he was wounded in the buttocks, but managed to escape. When he returned minutes later, Clark was lying on the sidewalk, mortally wounded.

Larry Braxton, who lived on the street where the shooting occurred, testified that he heard arguing and was walking toward the group when he saw that one of them had a gun. He identified Sailor as the gunman.

Sailor testified and denied involvement in the crime. He told the jury that he and Cordell were on the other side of Cleveland, where they were at two different bars before going to a private party.

On June 5, 2003, Sailor and Cordell Hubbard were convicted of murder, kidnapping, and assault. Nicole was convicted of felonious assault and complicity to murder and kidnapping.

Prior to sentencing, Cordell Hubbard signed a sworn statement saying that Sailor was not with him when Clark was killed and Williams was wounded.

“There’s a lot of things that the Court doesn’t know, that my lawyer doesn’t know," Cordell said. "Ru-El Sailor wasn't present the night when this took place. It was a guy named Will.”

“It was me and Will there," Cordell said. “I didn’t think it was going to turn out like this. I didn’t think my best friend was going to get convicted as the shooter, but he wasn’t even there.”

The statement was ignored, however, and Sailor was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Cordell was sentenced to 20 years to life, and Nichole was sentenced to 15 years to life.

In August 2003, Sailor filed a motion for a new trial based upon another sworn affidavit from Cordell saying that Sailor was not there. In the statement, Cordell went further than his previous statement. He admitted that he fired the shots, but said he was acting in self-defense.

At a hearing on the motion in September 2003, Cordell testified that Sailor was not at the scene of the shooting, but that his friend, William Sizemore, was with him. The motion was denied.

In 2004, the Court of Appeals of Ohio upheld Sailor’s convictions.

In 2013, Sailor filed another petition seeking a new trial based on a sworn statement from Omar Clark’s brother, Umar. In the statement, Umar said that after Cordell and Sailor were convicted, Sizemore called and asked to meet “to bring closure to this matter."

Umar said that when they met, Sizemore “told me that he wanted to let me know what my brother’s last words were. He explained that he ‘tried like hell to stop this.’”

Umar said, “Sizemore told me everything that occurred that evening. Sizemore was a few feet away from my brother when he was killed. The name Ru-El Sailor never came up.”

In addition, Umar said, “Sizemore advised me that he asked Cordell why he shot Omar. He reported that Hubbard just had a blank look on his face.”

The petition was dismissed without a hearing, and the Court of Appeals of Ohio upheld the dismissal in 2014. That same year, Sailor’s attorney, Kim Corral, submitted a request to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office conviction integrity unit for a review of the case. However, in 2016, the unit rejected the request. By that time, Jennifer Paschen Bergeron, an attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project, had joined Sailor’s defense team.

Later that year, the defense submitted more evidence to the prosecution, including a statement from Nichole Hubbard saying that she called Cordell that night to report what had happened. Nichole said that Cordell told her that he and his friend Will were nearby.

Another witness, Anthony McKenzie, said that he was with Cordell and Sailor as they were clubbing that night and that “Cordell and Will Sizemore left the bar together.”

In January 2017, the conviction integrity unit agreed to review Sailor’s case. And on March 28, 2018, the prosecution and Sailor’s lawyers filed a joint motion to vacate Sailor’s convictions and dismiss the charges.

The motion said that the prosecution had interviewed Williams. He admitted that he never knew for sure if Sailor was the gunman, and that his identification was “unreliable.”

“Specifically, Williams now states that the only reason he identified Sailor was because his friend and intimate partner, (Ellen) Taylor, told him that Sailor was present,” the motion said. “Thus, Williams trusted Taylor and testified that Sailor was the person with the gun and the probable shooter. Williams further admitted that he was high on PCP and alcohol on the night in question and only got a ‘glimpse/glance’ at the probable shooter for a few seconds.”

Sizemore confirmed for the prosecution that he was with Hubbard that night and that Sailor was not there.

“Sizemore…observed Hubbard shoot and kill Clark and that he tried to stop Hubbard from shooting Clark,” the motion said. “Specifically, Sizemore tried to explain to Hubbard that night that Clark was his friend and he viewed Clark like a family member in that Clark was dating Sizemore's cousin, Marquetta Sizemore, and they shared a child together.”

Sizemore said that after Williams ran, “Hubbard suddenly started shooting and killed Clark. Sizemore unequivocally states that Ru-El Sailor was not present during Clark's murder,” the motion said.

“Consequently, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office believes that the original theory of this case as presented at trial cannot be upheld and that Ru-El Sailor's convictions cannot withstand scrutiny,” the motion said.

However, the prosecution required that Sailor plead guilty to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for falsely testifying at his trial that Cordell was not involved in the shooting. Following his guilty plea, Sailor was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Because he had already served more than 10 years, he was released immediately.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 4/6/2018
State:Ohio
County:Cuyahoga
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault, Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:2002
Convicted:2003
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:25 years to life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No