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Albert Graves

Other Ohio No Crime Cases
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It was snowing on April 1, 2004, when a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol pulled over a vehicle traveling east on Interstate 80 for not having its lights on. James Williams was driving. Moriba Ramsey was in the passenger seat, and 20-year-old Albert Graves of Erie, Pennsylvania, was in the back seat.

The trooper became suspicious when Williams couldn’t produce a driver’s license, and there was a discrepancy about whose car they had borrowed for the drive from Detroit. Because of the weather, the trooper said the car needed to get off the highway. Graves was the only one of the three with a valid license, so at the trooper’s direction he drove the car to a highway-maintenance facility.

At the facility, a drug dog was waiting. The men were searched, and police found a film canister containing marijuana on Williams, but nothing on the two other men. During the search of the car’s interior, officers found a small amount of marijuana under the passenger seat. In the trunk, they found a bag containing more marijuana and a small amount of cocaine, and then a separate bag containing 1,160 grams of cocaine.

The police had a video camera recording the search, and the audio picked up some of the conversation of the three men. Ramsey and Williams could be heard discussing the progress of the search. Graves’s voice was deeper, and distinctive, and he said little and whatever he said was inaudible.

The three men were arrested and charged with various drug crimes. Graves was charged with two counts of possession of cocaine, a single count of trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in marijuana and possession of marijuana.

Graves’s trial was held nearly four years after his arrest. He was convicted by a jury in Lorain Court of Common Pleas on April 9, 2008, and then sentenced to 11 years in prison (Williams was convicted of similar charges and sentenced to 12 years in prison; Ramsey received 10 years.).

Graves appealed his conviction in 2009, and then was allowed to file a second appeal, claiming – among other things – that his appellate attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel in how he challenged the conviction.

On November 11, 2011, the Court of Appeals for Ohio’s Ninth Appellate District vacated Graves’s conviction. First, the court noted that Ohio law didn’t allow Graves to be convicted of trafficking and possessing the same drugs. It had to be one or the other. His appellate attorney had failed to state that claim.

Separately, the court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Graves had been in the back seat when the car was pulled over. There was no evidence that it was his car, that he had borrowed the car, or that he had driven the car prior to the trooper directing him to do so. The state had argued that he had access to the trunk because he had the keys, but the only evidence he had the keys was because the trooper had told him to drive the car. None of this indicated that Graves had possession of the car or – therefore – the drugs inside.

The videotape, while incriminating to Williams and Ramsey, didn’t pick up what little Graves said during the search. During closing arguments, the state had argued that the videotape showed Graves making several statements implying that he knew there were drugs in the trunk. But the evidence didn’t support that claim.

After the appellate ruling, Graves was released on bond on November 30, 2011. The state tried to appeal, but the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear the case, and the charges against Graves were dismissed on May 8, 2012.

Graves sought compensation from the Ohio Court of Claims. He was judged to be wrongfully convicted on December 9, 2014 and was awarded $221,253 on March 17, 2015.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 5/6/2019
State:Ohio
County:Lorain
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2008
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:11 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No