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MarQuise Salley

Other Philadelphia Exonerations
On July 25, 2009, 25-year-old Shalimar McQuilkin was shot to death outside the Sing Song take-out restaurant on the west side of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The next day, there was an informal vigil near the Chinese restaurant, at the corner of Belmar Terrace and 59th Street. Among the people in attendance were Victoria Campbell and Tonya Medley. Campbell was the mother of McQuilkin’s daughter. Later, a man named Lamar Jones joined the vigil. Christopher Simmons then approached the gathering. He talked with Jones and said that he heard Jones was suggesting that McQuilkin had been shot by 22-year-old MarQuise Salley, another young man from the neighborhood. Simmons said that wasn’t possible; he had been with Salley the previous night.

As the conversation between Jones and Simmons continued, Campbell and Medley moved inside the restaurant, and Campbell began recording the events on Medley’s phone. She would later testify that she was trying to gather evidence to help the police make an arrest in McQuilkin’s death. A few minutes later, they came outside. Campbell said she saw two men come forward. One said to Jones, “You said my name,” and then started shooting. Jones was shot nine times. Campbell was shot in the leg.

Police quickly arrived. Jones was taken by ambulance to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. A police officer later said he was drifting in and out of consciousness. When asked who shot him, Jones responded, according to the officer, “Marquest.” He died shortly after arriving at the hospital. The officer’s initial report, completed after Jones’s death, did not contain this information.

Campbell would later tell police that Salley had been the shooter at the vigil. In addition, a man named Del Roberson said he saw Salley walk to the Chinese restaurant and then begin shooting.

Police quickly issued an arrest warrant for Salley. On August 12, 2009, two police officers found him. At first, Officer Tyrick Cunningham would say, Salley gave a false name. But then, Cunningham said, Salley told the officers, “Just take me to 8th and Race,” referring to the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department.

When the officers asked him what was there, Cunningham said Salley responded, “The biggest bust of your career. Just take me to 8th and Race.” Salley told the officers who he was, and as they drove downtown, the officer said that Salley proclaimed, “Call Channel 6, call Channel 6. Tell them I’m on my way down there. As a matter of fact, I was going to turn myself in, and I got lawyer money. As a matter of fact, where can you go when you’re wanted on two homicides? Where else can you go? I was tired of running I was going to turn myself in.”

Salley was arrested at the station and charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, and possession of an instrument of crime. No weapon was ever recovered from the shooting. Salley was never charged in McQuilkin’s death.

Salley’s trial began on June 15, 2010 in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. Salley’s attorney, Nino Tinari, objected during the trial to the use of Salley’s statement to police. He said Salley had not been given a Miranda warning and that the statement’s admission into evidence was prejudicial, because it connected Salley with a crime that he hadn’t been charged with. Judge Gwendolyn Bright allowed the statement’s introduction, siding with the prosecutor that it was a spontaneous utterance.

Campbell testified about what had happened outside the restaurant. Before the jury, she was confident in her identification of Salley as the shooter. But in her initial statement to police, she had said she wasn’t particularly focused on the faces of the men who walked up to the vigil, and after the shooting, “all I could see was a black gun.”

Roberson lived a half block away, about 350 feet, from the restaurant, and he said that he knew Salley in passing. Roberson said he had been at the vigil, and that he then went home and was sitting outside with a soda when Salley came walking by. He testified that he had a bad feeling about what might happen, so he sent his wife inside and continued to watch from his steps. Despite the distance, he said he could see Salley fire the gun. Roberson had talked to the police after the shooting, but in his initial statements to investigators, he said he didn’t know the shooter’s name. He testified that he was scared of being labeled a snitch. Prior to the trial, the police department paid to move Roberson and his family to another house.

Salley did not testify, and Tinari did not present any witnesses. The jury convicted Salley on June 22, 2010, and he was later sentenced to life without parole on the murder conviction, a consecutive sentence of up to 15 years on the attempted murder conviction, and concurrent sentences of up to seven years on the remaining convictions.

In his initial appeal, Salley asserted that Bright had erred in not granting his request to suppress his statement to police and in allowing jurors to hear the officer’s hearsay testimony about what Jones said while on the way to the hospital. Salley also argued that the evidence used to convict him was insufficient, as Roberson was too far away to see what happened, and Campbell was looking at her phone when the shooting started.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania denied Salley’s appeal on September 14, 2012.

Salley then filed a motion for a new trial, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. A hearing was held before Judge Bright. On July 21, 2016, she granted Salley a new trial. In her ruling, she noted that Tinari didn’t meet with Salley between his preliminary hearing on October 14, 2009 and the start of his trial the following June. In addition, she said that he had failed to file a pre-trial motion to suppress Salley’s statement to police, which essentially barred him from raising the issue on appeal. While Simmons could have testified on Salley’s behalf, Tinari did not call him as a witness, citing a lack of corroboration with his account that the man he saw shoot Jones wasn’t Salley.

Perhaps most important was Tinari’s handling of the video captured on Medley’s phone. The footage was grainy, but it showed two men walking toward the vigil. The one on the right had bow legs, Campbell noted, and the one on the left, who was straight-legged, was the shooter. But Salley was also bow-legged, with a distinctive gait. His mother had been willing to testify about her son’s walk, but Tinari didn’t call her to testify. In addition, the police had made their own video of Salley walking, which showed he was bow-legged. It was listed on the state’s discovery sheet, but Tinari said he didn’t know of its existence.

After Bright’s ruling, Salley remained incarcerated. His retrial began in January 2019. He was now represented by Richard Giuliani. The state, in a pre-emptive move, showed jurors both videos, the first from Medley’s phone and the second from the police station. The jury acquitted Salley on January 18, 2019, and he was released from jail early the next day.

On January 14, 2021, Salley filed a pro se civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, the district attorney's office and others, seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 9/29/2019
Last Updated: 1/22/2021
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No