On June 18, 2001, 22-year-old Bobby Mack was fatally shot and 25-year-old Andre Jefferson was wounded in the leg in a drive-by shooting in West Palm Beach, Florida.
A bystander who called 911 said the shots were fired from a white car.
Police showed Jefferson a photographic lineup, and he picked the photo of 23-year-old Damon Corner. On June 27, Corner was arrested and charged with second degree murder and attempted first degree murder.
In the fall of 2002, Corner went on trial before a jury in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. Jefferson identified Corner as the gunman who fired a rifle from his burgundy-colored car. Jefferson testified that he and Corner quarreled earlier in the day when they crossed paths in a convenience store. There was no other evidence against Corner.
Corner’s attorney chose not to call any witnesses, because under Florida law at that time, if the defense did not present any evidence, the prosecution was not allowed to make a rebuttal argument to the jury. On November 8, 2002, the jury convicted Corner of both charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2009, a private investigator for the Palm Beach County public defender’s office obtained a statement from Jefferson, who was mentally disabled, saying that he had not seen the shooter and had only identified Corner after acquaintances told him they believed Corner was the gunman. In the sworn affidavit, Jefferson said that before he testified, a prosecutor told him to say that he looked the gunman in the eyes.
In 2011, a hearing was held on a motion for a new trial. At the hearing, Jefferson did an about-face and testified that his testimony at the trial had been truthful. The defense presented his affidavit recanting his trial testimony.
Moreover, two alibi witnesses testified that had they been called at Corner’s trial, they would have testified that Corner was at a party at the time of the shooting and that his car was blocked in by other party-goers. The defense presented the tape of the 911 call in which a witness said the shots were fired from a white car.
In July 2011, Corner was granted a new trial after a judge ruled that Jefferson’s recantation in the affidavit was credible and that his testimony at trial and his recantation of the recantation at the post-trial hearing were not credible.
In February 2012, the Florida District Court of Appeal upheld the ruling granting a new trial, and in August 2012, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the prosecution’s motion for a rehearing.
The charges were dismissed on October 15, 2012 and Corner was released.
– Maurice Possley