On June 7, 2006, gunshots were fired inside an apartment building in Detroit, Michigan and witnesses outside the building saw a man run out and flee as another man leaned out a second story window firing an AK-47 assault rifle.
Inside the building, police found 25-year-old Cleo McDougal shot to death. The man who escaped on foot was McDougal’s brother, Matenis Carter, who initially told police that he did not know the gunman. Police said the shooting was the result of a drug deal that went bad.
Several days later, Carter told police the gunman was 26-year-old Elroy Lucky Jones, a man Carter knew. Jones, who had a prior juvenile conviction for assault with intent to commit murder and other adult convictions for possession of narcotics, denied involvement in the crime. Jones was charged with first-degree murder, home invasion, assault with intent to commit murder and illegal use of a firearm.
Jones went on trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in 2006 and was convicted after Carter identified him as the gunman. One witness testified for the defense that he had seen the gunman and that the gunman was not Jones. The defense witness said he was asked by police to view a lineup that contained Jones.
The witness testified that a police officer pressured him to identify Jones, but that he refused. Jones’s mother said he was home sleeping at the time of the shooting.
On October 19, 2006, a jury convicted Jones on all counts and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In 2008, his conviction was reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals because the tapes made by the court reporter of his trial proceedings had been stolen from the court reporter’s car and there was no way to reconstruct what happened at trial.
Jones was convicted at a second trial in 2008 and again sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In 2011, a witness being interviewed by federal investigators said that the wrong man had been convicted for the killing of McDougal. The witness identified another man as the gunman. The gunman was in federal prison on a narcotics conviction.
The information was passed on to the Detroit Police Department and during a re-investigation of the case, one of the original witnesses said that he had given the same man’s name to police at the time of the shooting, but his identification of the other man was disregarded because police were focused on Jones.
Jones’ attorney, Craig Tank, filed a motion to vacate Jones’ conviction and in December 2013, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge set aside Jones’ conviction and ordered a new trial. Jones was released on bond on January 13, 2014 and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office dismissed the charges on January 23, 2014.
In 2015, Tank filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Jones against the city of Detroit and Detroit police officers. The lawsuit was settled in part for $1.5 million and part of the lawsuit remained pending in 2016.
– Maurice Possley