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Tazell Cash

Other Wayne County CIU Exonerations
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On October 17, 2016, 43-year-old Michael Regan, who had placed an advertisement online seeking a possible relationship with another male, arranged to meet a man who responded to the advertisement. They agreed to meet at a home located near Madeline Street and 7 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan.

When Regan arrived, a man was standing in the driveway. After entering through a side door, Regan went to use the bathroom. When he came out, the man was holding a gun and demanded his money. After Regan said his wallet was in his car, the man took his keys and drove off in Regan’s car.

Regan went to a nearby gas station and called police. When police did not arrive within an hour, he called his girlfriend who picked him up and took him home. He then went to the nearest police station and filled out a report, saying he had been carjacked at a stoplight because he was embarrassed to tell the truth. He said the man was African-American, in his 20s, was dark-complected, had a small build, wore his hair in a buzz cut, and was clean-shaven.

On October 23, 2016, a Detroit police detective called him to report his car had been located and he should come to the Wayne County Jail to view a lineup. There, he identified 18-year-old Tazell Cash, who was clean-shaven, had a buzz cut, and was dark complected, as the man who robbed him and took his car.

In June 2017, Cash went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court on charges of armed robbery and car-jacking. Regan testified that he identified Cash in a photograph that was taken of a live lineup. Regan said three of the five men in the lineup had facial hair, four had a buzz cut and four were dark complected. He admitted he hesitated before he picked Cash.

Cash told the jury that he lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan, about an hour’s drive west of Detroit. He said that on October 17—the day of the car-jacking, he got up at 5:30 a.m. and went to school. His father picked him up at 1:30 p.m.—leaving early because he was upset that his best friend had been killed in Detroit. Cash said he slept for two or three hours, then went with his father to drop off some money at his mother’s workplace. He said he and his father then went to dinner and returned home between 6 and 6:30 p.m.

Cash said he sat on the front porch and talked with his parents, then went next door to talk to a neighbor and returned home where he chatted with his grandmother who had stopped by. He said he was texting a friend until about 1 a.m. and went to school the next day.

Cash said that on October 18, he video-chatted with his cousin, Kawayne Bailey, who lived in Detroit. Bailey was in a car that Cash said he did not recognize.

On October 22, 2016, Cash said his parents drove him to Detroit to spend the night with an aunt so Cash could attend a candlelight vigil for his friend. Cash said that around 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, Bailey picked him up, driving the same car he saw on the video chat—a black Ford Freestyle. They visited Bailey’s girlfriend and stopped at other places.

Cash testified that Bailey took him and a friend named Tracy to the candlelight vigil. Afterward, Cash said he went to a bar with Bailey, Tracy, and other friends. Bailey left and Cash stayed because he planned to get a ride from Tracy and his friends. However, when the ride didn’t pan out, Bailey picked him up around 1 a.m. and they drove to Bailey’s girlfriend’s house.

Cash said he and Bailey quarreled because he wanted to go to his aunt’s house and Bailey said he didn’t have enough gas. Cash at first refused to give him any money because he had paid to fill up the tank earlier that day, but then said he would give Bailey $10. When they stopped at Bailey’s girlfriend’s house so Bailey could take his laptop inside, Cash got behind the wheel and took off. As he left, Cash heard Bailey say that the car was stolen. Cash told the jury that at first, he didn’t believe Bailey, but not long after, at about 2 a.m., he stopped at an all-night drug store where he called an ex-girlfriend. He then went to his aunt’s house, grabbed his bookbag, and drove home.

Cash said he didn’t go directly home because he was panicking. He stopped at a friend’s house and parked there. He fell asleep in the car for a few hours and then finally went to Ypsilanti.

He told his parents what happened and they said he should call the police. He was then arrested and taken to the Wayne County Jail.

Paulette Bailey testified that her son, Kawayne, was driving a black car on October 18, 2016 and he tried to sell it to a relative. She said that around 8:30 p.m., she was at a laundromat and Kawayne stopped to give her $10. She said she did not know where the vehicle came from and that she told Kawayne, “It’s not right. I told him get away from me and he left.”

Layton Price testified that although he was not Cash’s biological father, they had a father-son relationship. He testified that he saw Cash leave for school on October 17, that he picked him up between 11 a.m. and noon and that Cash went to his room to sleep when they came home. He said they went to dinner, came home, and chatted on the front porch as a family. Price said he went to bed at 10 p.m. and Cash was still on the porch.

Price said that on October 23, 2016, Cash told him what had happened and that the car was stolen. After calling police, Price said, Cash was arrested.

Daicia Price, Cash’s mother, gave a similar account of the day and evening of October 17. She said she went to bed at 11 p.m. and that Cash was still up. She said the home had a security system and that if Cash had left after she went to bed, she would have been alerted.

On June 5, 2017, the jury convicted Cash of both charges. He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

At the request of attorney Gary Strauss, who was appointed to handle the appeal, the prosecution agreed to remand the case back to the trial court for a hearing on a motion for new trial based on the failure of Cash’s defense attorney to present alibi evidence.

During the hearing on April 20, 2018, Strauss presented evidence that Suzan Gabbara, the first attorney retained by Cash’s parents, had obtained cell phone records showing that Cash was in Ypsilanti on the day of the crime. Gabbara also obtained records for Cash’s tablet, including screen shots from video chat sessions which showed Cash was at home between 9:30 and 11:22 p.m. on the night of the crime, video footage of Bailey in the stolen car, Facebook messages between Bailey’s girlfriend and Bailey’s mother discussing the fact that the car was stolen, as well as Facebook video showing Bailey and the girlfriend in the stolen car.

Gabbara also obtained a still photo from a surveillance video inside the laundromat showing Bailey and his mother—supporting the testimony of Bailey’s mother. And finally, Gabbara had a copy of Bailey’s criminal history showing he had a prior armed robbery conviction.

Gabbara, however, withdrew from the case after the family was unable to pay her fee. She did turn over all of the evidence to Eric Goze, who was appointed to defend Cash. However, Goze did not attempt to present any of the evidence at the trial. When he came into the case, he said he would be ready to go to trial in a month—before he had even examined the evidence assembled by Gabbara. Strauss argued that Goze should have obtained a continuance to obtain experts to testify about the cell phone and tablet evidence.

On September 18, 2018, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hathaway denied the motion for new trial. He ruled that Goze’s decision not to use the evidence was a matter of strategy.

After the ruling, Amanda Smith, an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, referred the case to the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit. On May 28, 2019, following a review by Valerie Newman, head of the CIU, the prosecution and Strauss jointly requested that Cash’s convictions be vacated and the charges were dismissed.

On June 10, 2019, Cash pled guilty to a charge of receiving and concealing stolen property. He was sentenced to one year of probation with credit for time served.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/12/2019
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Other Violent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2016
Convicted:2017
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:10 to 20 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No