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Andre Aina

Other Pennsylvania exonerations with no crime
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On April 8, 2015, 22-year-old Andre Aina was stopped for a traffic violation in Centre County, Pennsylvania. He consented to a search, and police recovered an SKS-model rifle, a stun gun, a bag of marijuana, and some rolling papers.

Aina was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, firearms not to be carried without a license, prohibited weapons offense, possession of a small amount of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and traffic violations.

Prior to trial, Aina filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the car, which was denied. A motion to dismiss the charge of possession by a prohibited person was granted since he had not been previously convicted of an offense that prohibited possession of a firearm. The only firearms charge remaining was firearms not to be carried without a license. For that offense, a “firearm” was limited to rifles with a barrel length less than 16 inches and an overall length of the weapon of not more than 26 inches.

On November 2, 2015, Aina went to trial in Centre County Court of Common Pleas and chose to have his case decided by a judge without a jury. The trial lasted one day.

The prosecution did not present any evidence about the length of the rifle or its barrel. And instead of producing the actual rifle at trial, the prosecution relied upon a photograph. No measurements of the rifle were presented. At the end of the day, the judge convicted Aina of all charges except for speeding. The gun charge was a felony and the others were misdemeanors. Based on the felony conviction, Aina was sentenced to three to six years in prison.

Aina subsequently retained a new lawyer to file an appeal, which was denied in December 2016.

On March 16, 2017, Aina, acting without a lawyer, filed a post-conviction relief act petition seeking a new trial. The petition contended that his trial defense lawyer had provided an inadequate legal defense. Ultimately, in December 2017, Aina filed a motion requesting that the rifle be produced for measurement. In July 2018, the petition for a new trial was denied.

Aina appealed. After opposing Aina for more than two years, Centre County Assistant District Attorney Matt Metzger went to a gun shop and measured a similar rifle. He determined that the rifle Aina had possessed was legal.

As a result, the prosecution conceded on appeal that the gun charge should be vacated and dismissed. The prosecution filed a request that the case be remanded back to the Court of Common Claims.

In March 2020, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania granted the request. “After reviewing the record and in light of the Commonwealth’s admission that Aina is innocent of firearms not to be carried without a license, we agree that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to have the firearms not to be carried without a license offense dismissed for insufficient evidence,” the court said.

On March 31, 2020, the conviction was vacated, the charge was dismissed and Aina was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/6/2020
State:Pennsylvania
County:Centre
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Convicted:2015
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:3 to 6 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No