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Martiece Curry

Other Michigan Sexual Assault Exonerations
On the morning of January 16, 1990, a 22-year-old woman called police in Detroit, Michigan and reported she had been robbed and raped at gunpoint in her home.

The woman told the officers that she had never seen her attacker before and could only identify him by his voice. However, while being taken to a hospital, she saw 21-year-old Martiece Curry on the street and said that he was her attacker.

Three days later, on January 19, police arrested Curry and took him to a police station. There the woman identified him in a voice lineup and a live lineup. However, police released Curry.

On February 27, 1990, an arrest warrant was issued and Curry was taken into custody. He was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, and carrying a concealed weapon.

On June 19, 1990, Curry, who was identified as Martice in the charges, went to trial in Wayne County Recorder’s Court. That same day, the prosecution for the first time disclosed to the defense that in May, the crime lab had identified sperm in the vaginal swab taken at the hospital and on the woman’s underwear. No further testing had been performed.

Curry’s defense attorney did not ask for testing to be done or seek to postpone the trial after the prosecution agreed not to introduce the evidence at the trial.

As a result, the prosecution’s case relied solely on the victim’s identification of Curry as her attacker.

The defense called Andero Beard, Curry’s cousin and roommate, who testified that Curry was home at the time of the crime. Beard also testified that an elderly neighbor, Ruby Spiry, whom Curry regularly helped, picked Curry up that morning so he could help with her shopping.

The prosecution attempted to cast doubt on Beard’s testimony by asking why Beard did not come forward to speak to police prior to the trial. Beard said, “I wasn’t asked to and I thought he was out of it because they let him go.”

Spiry testified that she picked Curry up and after he helped her with her shopping, she drove him home by 2:30 p.m. Curry testified and denied he committed the crime. He said that after Spiry dropped him off, he went to play basketball, but stopped to talk to a friend who was fixing a car when the victim saw him and accused him of being her attacker.

On June 25, 1990, the jury convicted Curry of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, and carrying a concealed weapon. He was sentenced to 10 to 40 years in prison.

In August 1994, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned his convictions and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish that it was natural for Beard to come forward to police with his account of Curry’s whereabouts.

“Indeed, an assumption that it was natural for Beard to tell his story to the police is not warranted because he thought that the defendant’s release indicated that he had been exonerated,” the court said. “Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the prosecutor to question Beard with respect to why did he not come forward earlier without first showing that it would have been natural for him to come forward.”

The court noted that because the prosecution had portrayed Spiry as “well-meaning but forgetful,” Beard’s testimony was critical to the defense. The court also noted that Curry’s defense attorney had filed a notice of an alibi defense in March—three months prior to the trial—and the jury was not informed of that fact.

The appeals court also said that although there was no evidence that the prosecution intentionally withheld the laboratory report until the first day of the trial, the “nonproduction of the laboratory analysis deprived” Curry of the existence of potentially exculpatory evidence. “Defense counsel’s performance was deficient in failing to timely request a continuance in order to test the physical evidence, permitting the trial to progress with preparation of an important defense.”

On June 5, 1995, Curry was released on bond pending a retrial. On July 21, 1995, the prosecution dismissed the charges. Recorder’s Court Judge Vera Massey Jones signed the dismissal order, noting, “DNA testing excluded (Curry) as one of the sources of DNA recovered from the victim.”

In August 2018, Curry filed a petition seeking compensation from the state of Michigan. In 2020, he was awarded $237,677.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/3/2019
Last Updated: 12/18/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1990
Sentence:10 to 40 years
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*