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Edward Khalil

Other Wayne County, Michigan exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Edward_Khalil.jpeg
On September 15, 2011, 51-year-old Anthony Jones was fatally shot as he attempted to exit a building in Detroit, Michigan, where he had been illegally stripping copper from a building that was being rehabilitated. Police charged one of the building’s co-owners, 28-year-old Edward Khalil, with the shooting.

The shooting occurred shortly after 6 a.m. at the building located at 931 Covington Drive in the Palmer Park neighborhood of Highland Park, Michigan, a city located within the boundary of Detroit.

Khalil co-owned the 115-year-old building with Parminder Saroya, who put up the funds to buy the building. Khalil contributed the “sweat equity.” Saroya and Khalil were working with local non-profit organizations to write a grant proposal from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to rehab this building and two others they owned that were located nearby.

Prior to the shooting, police had been summoned many times because people were breaking into the Covington building to remove copper and other materials. The security guard had called police so often that police eventually stopped coming.

Shortly after 4 a.m. on September 15, 2011, Saroya received a call from a tenant in one of his other buildings saying that there appeared to be a break-in at the Covington building. Saroya, an Indian emigrant living in Canada, was staying with his son, Jason, at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, Michigan, about 11 miles from the Covington building. Saroya called Khalil, who was in West Bloomfield, Michigan and they both drove to the Covington building.

Khalil was about 20 miles away. As he drove, he used his cell phone to call 911 and to call Charles Shavers, a recently-hired maintenance/security guard who lived just across the alley from the Covington building. Khalil called several times before he was able to rouse Shavers.

At 4:18 a.m. two police officers met and spoke with Khalil and the Saroyas. Because the radio call mentioned that an armed man was inside the building, the officers declined to enter, saying it was not safe. Two more officers were summoned and they also refused to enter. Finally after a lieutenant arrived, the five officers as well as Khalil and the Saroyas went into the basement to review video from security cameras. However, the recording equipment had been disabled at about 1:30 a.m. The police searched the first two floors, which had lighting, but did not search the third or fourth floors, which were dark.

According to a video from a security camera on a building across the alley, Khalil left to drive home at about 5:55 a.m. and the Saroyas left as well.

Meanwhile, Jones and Arthur Richardson, who had broken into the building, had been hiding in a closet on the third floor. After the police left, Jones tried to leave the building by crawling out of a first-floor bathroom window, but was fatally shot in the neck with a slug from a 12-gauge shotgun. When Jones was shot, Richardson ran back to the third floor closet.

At 6:06 a.m., security video from the building across the alley showed Shavers getting off the elevator with a long gun. He went into the stairwell. The security video from the alley showed him walking with the gun. At 6:07 and 17 seconds, he moved out of the camera’s view as he turned the corner to the side of the Covington building. He was next seen coming back into the camera’s view 38 seconds later. He was running and the gun could not be seen.

Khalil and the Saroyas returned at about 6:17 or 6:18 a.m., according to the video.

Khalil called 911 at 8:15 a.m. to report the shooting. On September 20, Khalil and Shavers were arrested and charged with murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony. Shavers later agreed to testify for the prosecution. In return, he was allowed to plead guilty to being an accessory after the fact to a felony and was sentenced to probation for 18 months.

In 2012, Khalil went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court. The prosecution contended that Khalil was the gunman and that Shavers aided and abetted him.

The prosecution presented an analysis of cell phone tower records by FBI special agent Joseph Slatalla, who detailed the location of Khalil’s cell phone. The records show that Shavers called Khalil’s phone at 5:56 a.m. At 6:06 a.m., Shavers called again and records showed that Khalil’s phone was on a freeway about six or seven miles from the shooting and that the phone was moving away from the Covington building.

After that second call, Khalil’s phone use showed that he turned around and drove back to the Covington building, arriving around 6:13 or 6:15 a.m. Records showed he called 911 at 6:26 a.m., but the call was not connected.

Shavers testified and for the first time, he said that when he made the call to Khalil’s cell phone, a woman answered the call. The prosecution relied on this testimony to argue that Khalil was not in possession of his phone and that the records did not establish an alibi.

Shavers testified that he was awakened around 4 a.m. by Khalil who said that there was a break in, that police had been called, and that he should meet him at the Covington building. Shavers said he took a drill so he could open the front door, which had been boarded up.

He said that after police left, having searched only part of the building, he re-boarded up the front door. Shavers said the Saroyas left, but that Khalil stayed. Shavers said he went back to his apartment and looked out his window to see Khalil running around the corner of the east side of Covington. He told the jury that Khalil looked in his direction and made a motion to come down with the shotgun. Shavers said he gave Khalil the shotgun and then bent down to tie his shoes.

At that moment, Shavers heard a gunshot and Khalil came to him and handed him the shotgun. Shavers said he put it in the basement of the building where he lived and claimed he did not know anyone had been shot. He said he called Khalil and a woman answered and said that Khalil would get back to him. Eventually, Shavers said, Khalil and the Saroyas called him and they went to get coffee. He said that while they were having coffee, Khalil said he thought he might have shot someone who was in the building. Shavers said Khalil told him that he would have to cover for Khalil and that Khalil would get him a lawyer.

Officer Joseph Molinaro testified that when he and his partner, Douglas McDonald, responded to the 911 call at 8:15 a.m., Shavers, Parminder Saroya, and Khalil were at the building. Khalil said that Shavers had shot someone in the building. After examining Jones’s body and determining he had no pulse, Molinaro asked what happened and Shavers said, “I shot him.”

Molinaro began to ask more questions, but Khalil interjected that Shavers would not answer any more questions until his lawyer arrived.

A stipulation was presented to the jury that if McDonald was called to testify, he would also say that Shavers admitted shooting Jones and that the shooting occurred at 6:07 a.m.

Shantele Henderson testified that she lived in a building that was across the alley from a parking lot next to the Covington building. She said that sometime between 5 and 6 a.m. she heard a shot and looked out her window. She said she saw Khalil with a shotgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. She first said she heard Khalil tell another man, whom she described as a young Middle Eastern man, “I killed that [obscenity].” She said the phrase was spoken with a Middle Eastern accent. When questioned further, Henderson said that what she heard was “We got the [obscenity].”

Henderson said she was shown a photo array and picked Khalil’s photo as the man with the shotgun. The array did not contain Shavers’s photo or photos of the Saroyas.

Richardson, who had gone back to hide in the closet after Jones was shot, testified that he and Jones broke into the building through a first floor bathroom window intending to steal copper. They unplugged the security camera and went to work until they heard people in the building, when they hid in a closet. He said that when they thought it was safe, they came out and went down to the first floor to leave through the broken window. As Jones was climbing out of the window, he was shot. Richardson said he ran back to the third floor.

Richardson said he then looked out the window and saw Shavers coming toward the front door with nothing in his hands. He said he then saw Khalil carrying the shotgun also heading to the front door. Richardson said he heard a woman ask what happened and that Khalil said, “We got that [obscenity].” Richardson said the comment was in a noticeable accent and was made to a woman who got into a van and drove away. Khalil, who drove a compact car, remained there.

Richardson said that when police arrived again, he called out and police came and got him. When he left the building, he saw Khalil and other people standing around.

Later, Richardson viewed the same photo array that was shown to Henderson. And, like Henderson, he identified Khalil as the man with the shotgun. Richardson was given immunity from burglary charges in return for his testimony.

On December 5, 2012, Khalil was convicted of premeditated murder and possession of a gun in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to life in prison.

A year later, on December 17, 2013, Khalil’s convictions were vacated and he was granted a new trial. The judge ruled that Khalil’s trial defense lawyer had presented an inadequate legal defense by not allowing Khalil to testify in his own behalf. That testimony was critical not only because Khalil denied shooting Jones, but also it would have shown that he did not have an accent.

Khalil went to trial a second time in March 2014. At this trial, Khalil testified and denied shooting Jones. His testimony revealed that he did not have an accent. He said that he left home at 4 a.m., he never had a woman with him, and he did not stop to pick up a woman along the way. He said that after the first police search ended, he left and was driving home when Shavers called. He said he turned around and came back. He said he entered the building with Shavers and the Saroyas and they discovered Jones’s body. Khalil said Jason Saroya told him that Shavers admitted he shot someone. Khalil said Shavers also admitted to the shooting.

Khalil said he regretted not getting through to 911 immediately, but said he was overwhelmed and it was clear that Jones was dead. Khalil said they went for coffee and assured Shavers that they would get him an attorney.

On April 11, 2014, the jury convicted Khalil of second-degree murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was initially sentenced to 16 years in prison on the murder charge and two years on the firearm charge to be served consecutively. Upon appeal, his convictions were upheld, but he was resentenced to 14 to 25 years on the murder conviction and an additional two years on the possession charge to be served consecutively.

In 2018, Khalil moved to vacate his convictions, contending that his second trial lawyer provided an inadequate legal defense. The motion said that Khalil’s trial defense lawyer had failed to call Parminder Saroya as a witness. Saroya would have testified that just after the shooting, he received a call on his cell phone from Khalil who informed him of the killing. The records of this call showed that Khalil was with his phone, seven miles from the Covington building. In addition, Saroya would have testified that after the first call, which resulted in the partial police search, he left at 5:50 a.m. He would have said that Khalil left at the same time and there was no woman with him.

Saroya would have testified that when he returned to the building the second time, Shavers came out and said he had shot a man climbing out of a first floor window.

Ultimately, a hearing was held on the motion. But when Saroya arrived, the prosecutor threatened to charge him with involvement in the crime and Saroya did not testify.

In April 2019, the court denied the motion for new trial. The following month, the case was submitted to the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. On July 13, 2020, following the CIU investigation, the convictions were vacated at the request of the prosecution, the charges were dismissed, and Khalil was released.

In a statement, Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that the CIU interviewed Jason Saroya, Parminder’s son. Worthy said that “at all key moments” Khalil was talking on his own cell phone and there was no woman with him. Jason also said that he and his father arrived after the shooting simultaneously with Khalil and they discovered Jones’s dead body for the first time. In addition, Jason said Khalil never made any statement about getting Jones. The CIU also determined that Parminder has a heavy foreign accent.

“The newly discovered evidence in this case substantiates that Mr. Khalil was not involved in the crimes for which he was charged and convicted of in this case,” Worthy said in the statement. The investigation “warrants that the convictions and sentences in this case be vacated and all charges be dismissed in the best interests of justice.”

Khalil filed for state compensation for his wrongful conviction in August 2020.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/4/2020
Last Updated: 9/18/2020
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Gun Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:2011
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:Life
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No