In March 2003, a man robbed a Tulsa, Oklahoma convenience store at gunpoint. The clerk of the store provided an initial description of the robber.
When shown a six person photo line-up, the clerk identified 23-year-old Marrio D'Shane Willis as the robber, even though Willis did not match the initial description. Although Willis’s lawyer believed the real criminal to be Antonio Ellis, who more closely resembled the description, he failed to follow the procedure required to show the clerk Ellis’s picture or pursue this defense.
In December 2003, a jury convicted Willis of armed robbery, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
At an evidentiary hearing in 2005, the clerk, who by then had been shown a photo of Ellis, testified that Ellis was the real culprit. Ellis had been convicted of other armed robberies in the area. The trial judge denied the motion for new trial, but in 2006, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal appeals reversed that ruling and ordered a new trial for Willis.
Willis’s conviction was vacated, and he was granted a new trial by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. On April 25, 2006, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Willis was released.
– Maurice Possley