In April 2002, a security guard at a Sears in Lincoln Park, a Detroit, Michigan suburb, stopped a woman leaving the store with $1,300 in unpaid merchandise. In an attempt to flee, the woman bit the guard. Police were called, and she was arrested and taken to the police station, where she told police that she was 15 years old, and that her name was Dominique Brim. She also provided a phone number and address. She was allowed to leave the station without being booked. Two weeks later, Dominique Brim was charged with felony assault and retail fraud. At a bench trial, Brim insisted that she had not been at the Sears on the date of the robbery, that she did not steal any merchandise, and that she had not been arrested. But the judge did not believe Brim, and after two Sears employees identified her as the person whom they apprehended and who bit the guard, she was convicted. As a juvenile, she faced a maximum sentence of 6 years.
Despite the conviction, Brim’s continued insistence that she was innocent prompted Sears officials to review the security tape from the day of the robbery, something they had not done before trial. The tape showed that Brim was not the person who robbed the store. After the store contacted the prosecution and Brim’s attorney, the judge vacated her conviction before she was sentenced, and Brim was released. The woman on the tape was later identified as 25-year-old Chalaundra Latham. Prosecutors never charged Latham because the Sears employees had already given sworn testimony that Brim was the perpetrator.
- Stephanie Denzel