On October 4, 1996, 30-year-old Lewis Jackson, a known drug dealer, was shot and killed while sitting in his car in Baltimore, Maryland.
In the days following the shooting, police interviewed several witnesses, including Frances Morgan, who claimed to have seen someone on a bike ride up to the dealer’s car and shoot him. When shown a photo array, Morgan identified 19-year-old Ronald Addison as the shooter.
Morgan was the main prosecution witness against Addison when he went on trial before a judge who heard the case without a jury.
Addison claimed he could prove that Morgan was lying and could not have seen the murder from her apartment, but his attorney failed to investigate the crime scene.
On March 25, 1998, a judge convicted Addison of second-degree murder and possession of a handgun. Addison was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
After Addison’s conviction, his appellate attorney requested the case file from the prosecution, and discovered exculpatory evidence that had not been provided to the defense.
The files showed that another witness, who viewed a photo lineup that included Addison, had identified someone else as the shooter. The witness also said he saw the shooter flee on foot, not on a bike as Morgan had claimed.
According to the files, another witness gave the police a description of a suspect that did not match Addison, and also identified another person as the shooter from a photo array. And yet another witness told the police his child had seen someone running from the scene—not on a bike.
Addison's attorney and a private investigator interviewed Morgan and she admitted that she had not seen the murder. In fact, she said she was high on cocaine at the time. Moreover, an investigation of the crime scene showed that Morgan could not have seen the murder from the place where she claimed to have been watching.
Addison’s first motion for post-conviction relief was denied, but in 2003 the Innocence Project of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender took on his case and filed a motion to reopen his post-conviction proceeding.
That motion was granted and in October 2005 Addison’s conviction was vacated by a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge and Addison was granted a new trial. In December 2005, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Addison was released.
- Stephanie Denzel