On January 15, 1997 at about 2 a.m., Shalondra Russell awoke to the sound of smashing glass and looked out her front window to see someone had destroyed the windows, tail lights and sunroof of her car. She immediately telephoned her mother, Jessica Moody, who lived across the street and said that “Khubby” had smashed the car.
“Khubby” was the nickname of 28-year-old Earl Raby Jr., a construction company owner who had previously been Russell’s boyfriend until the relationship soured.
Police were summoned and told by Russell and Moody of their belief that Raby had been responsible. Raby was arrested on September 27, 1997 and went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in March of 1998, opting for a bench trial.
Moody testified that she heard glass breaking and looked out to see a truck parked next to her daughter’s car. She said she “believed” the truck said “Earl Raby Construction” on the side. She conceded she did not see the man’s face.
On March 25, 1998, Raby was convicted of malicious destruction of property. He was placed on probation for one year and ordered to make $459 in restitution for the damages.
His case was referred to the State Appellate Defender Office and was assigned a new attorney, Valerie Newman. Her investigation showed that Raby’s trial counsel, Karri Mitchell, had failed to investigate Raby’s claim that he had spent the night with friends in a home where the doors locked automatically upon departure and that he had no key.
Both friends had been willing to testify for Raby, but Mitchell never called them.
A post-trial motion for an evidentiary hearing was granted at which the alibi witnesses both testified. The judge found that Mitchell had failed to provide effective legal assistance and set aside the conviction and ordered a new trial.
The charge was dismissed and Raby was exonerated on September 15, 1999.
– Maurice Possley