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Eric Anderson

Other Wayne County CIU Exonerations
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Shortly after 3 a.m. on April 18, 2010, two armed men with their shirts pulled up over their faces robbed 20-year-old Gregory Matthews Jr. and a friend, 19-year-old Stephon Tolin, on the street outside Matthews’s home in Detroit, Michigan.

Matthews and Tolin later told police that they had just pulled up in Matthews’s car after returning from a strip club. Matthews said the robbers demanded his car keys and their valuables. One robber held a handgun to the back of Tolin’s head and pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Matthews later said that the other gunman put him in a headlock while the man whose gun misfired pistol-whipped him in the face.

Matthews and Tolin then fled to a nearby gas station. While running, they said, they heard two gunshots. Using his cell phone, Matthews called his mother as he ran, and said that he and Tolin had been robbed of his car keys.

Matthews’s mother, Omeake Taylor, told police that she was awakened by the call and looked out the window to see two men. They had pressed the automatic starter on Matthews’s key ring, but it started Taylor’s van, which was blocked in the driveway by Matthews’s car. She yelled out the window and both fled. She said she heard two gunshots from around the corner.

Ten days later, on April 28, 2010, Matthews brought police a photograph of 20-year-old Eric Anderson, which Matthews said he downloaded from Facebook. Matthews said Anderson was the robber whose gun had misfired and who had pistol-whipped him.

Anderson was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree armed robbery, assault, and illegal use of a weapon. He denied involvement in the crime. Anderson said that at about the same time of the robbery, he had been shot in the foot at a Coney Island restaurant more than 10 miles away.

Anderson went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2010. Matthews told the jury that he recognized Anderson because Anderson frequented the neighborhood and because during the robbery, he exposed his face. Matthews said he looked at his cell phone when he was running away and saw the time was 3:19 a.m.

Matthews also said that when he was at Sinai-Grace Hospital getting stitches for his wounds, he saw the other robber, whom he identified only as "Armod," getting his hand wrapped. Matthews said he told a security guard, but nothing was done.

Tolin testified and was unable to identify either of the robbers. He said that one of them put a semi-automatic pistol to the back of his head and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire.

Detroit Police Sgt. Todd Ebey testified that he investigated Anderson’s claim of being shot at the Coney Island. Although surveillance video from the Coney Island was not presented at the trial, Ebey said he had reviewed it. He said it showed a chaotic scene. One person appeared to be wearing jeans with distinctive markings that were similar to the jeans Anderson said he was wearing that night and were similar to the clothing listed in Anderson’s medical records.

Ebey said he could not see who got shot or who fired the gun. Under questioning by the prosecutor, Ebey said that a semi-automatic pistol that misfires can accidentally go off on its own at some later time.

Ebey also reviewed hospital records that showed Anderson arrived at the Sinai-Grace Hospital for treatment around 3:30 a.m., and that he was treated for a gunshot wound in his left foot. Ebey also testified that a man named Lopez had been treated at Detroit Receiving Hospital, which was less than five minutes from the Coney Island.

Matthews’s mother testified that she was awakened by Matthews’s call that he had been robbed. She said she looked out the window and saw two men standing near her car, one of whom she identified as Anderson. She said she yelled at the pair and they fled. Seconds later, she said, she heard two gunshots from around the corner.

The defense called Armod Ford, who testified that he was home in bed when Anderson called him to report he had been shot. Ford said he woke his mother and she took him to the hospital because he was concerned about Anderson’s condition. He said that several days prior, he had injured one of his fingers during a weight-lifting accident and was wearing a split wrapped by a bandage. He said that while he was at the hospital, he got the splint re-wrapped.

Ford’s mother testified that Armod awakened her and said Anderson had been shot. She drove Armod to Sinai-Grace Hospital and went inside with him. After she learned the wound was not life-threatening, she went home.

Darius Nunlee testified that on the night of both incidents, he drove Anderson to a club across from the bus station in downtown Detroit. The club was too crowded, so they did not get in. After driving around for a while, they left downtown to drop Anderson off at his home. On the way home, Nunlee said, Anderson wanted to use a bathroom, so they stopped at the Coney Island. Nunlee said he was waiting in the car when he heard gunshots and saw Anderson emerge from the restaurant, hopping on one foot.

He said he drove Anderson to Sinai-Grace Hospital. The prosecution noted that Sinai-Grace Hospital was about 10 miles from the Coney Island and less than three miles from Matthews’s home, and that Nunlee and Anderson passed at least three hospitals while driving to Sinai-Grace. Nunlee responded that he saw a sign for an emergency room near the Coney Island, but it was dark, so he drove to Sinai-Grace because Anderson told him how to get there.

Anderson testified and denied involvement in the robbery. He said he was shot in the side of the foot. He said he told Nunlee to drive to Sinai-Grace because he knew the way there and it was located closer to where he lived.

The prosecution argued that Anderson was the robber whose gun misfired and who had pistol-whipped Matthews, and that Anderson had shot himself in the foot when his gun misfired as he ran away from the scene of the robbery.

On November 5, 2010, the jury convicted Anderson of two counts of armed robbery, assault, and illegal use of a weapon. He was sentenced to 13 to 20 years in prison for the robbery and assault convictions, plus an additional two years for the weapons charge.

In August 2012, the Court of Appeals of Michigan vacated his assault conviction because it was multiple punishment for the same offense. The appeals court upheld the armed robbery and illegal use of a weapons convictions, and remanded the case for resentencing. Anderson was resentenced to 12 to 20 years on the robbery counts to be followed by an additional 2 years for the weapons conviction.

Anderson later filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but that was denied.

Anderson subsequently requested that the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School re-investigate his case. In 2018, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, headed by prosecutor Valerie Newman, began reviewing the evidence in Anderson’s case.

On April 30, 2019, following the CIU’s re-investigation of the case, Newman and the innocence clinic presented a joint order requesting that Anderson’s convictions be vacated. The motion was based on a sworn statement from the real criminal, who admitted that he and another man—not Anderson—committed the crime. New evidence also showed that the clothing the real gunman said he was wearing resembled the descriptions given by Tolin and Matthews at trial.

On April 30, the motion to vacate the conviction was granted, the charges were dismissed, and Anderson was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/6/2019
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Assault, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2010
Convicted:2010
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:15 to 22 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No