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Anthony Legion

Other Wayne County, Michigan exonerations
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In the early morning hours of January 24, 2001, 25-year-old Jamond McIntyre was fatally shot while being chased from a home at 3951 Third Street in Detroit, Michigan.

Police found 10 spent shell casings near the front porch of the home and about 20 more down an alley where McIntyre fled. He climbed over a fence, but got no further. He had been shot seven times. Near his body, police collected about 20 more shell casings. Inside the house, police found three handguns, but none were connected to the shooting.

No one said they actually saw McIntyre get shot. But the following month, Kenneth Lockhart, who was in a bedroom at the Third Street home at the time of the shooting, identified three men—21-year-old Marvin Cotton, 27-year-old Anthony Legion and 29-year-old Devonte Parks—as being in the home after multiple shots were fired. Lockhart made the identifications from a photographic lineup.

On February 22, 2001, arrest warrants were issued and Cotton, Legion and Parks were charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

On Friday, October 12, 2001, three days before the trial was scheduled to begin, Wayne County assistant prosecuting attorney Michael Wagner disclosed to the defense that Ellis Frazier Jr., a convicted armed robber, claimed that Cotton had admitted involvement in the shooting while both were in separate holding cells awaiting court appearances. Frazier claimed that he was in a holding cell with a man named “Anthony” who was a co-defendant of Cotton. He said that “Anthony” introduced Frazier verbally to Cotton, who was in an adjacent holding cell, but could not be seen because the cells were partitioned off. Frazier claimed he saw Cotton when he left his cell to go to court.

On Monday, October 15, just before jury selection was scheduled to begin, defense attorneys for Cotton and Legion said there was an unsigned dismissal order for Parks in the case file. By that time, Parks had taken a polygraph examination and was deemed to be truthful when he denied any involvement in the crime. In addition, Parks had provided an alibi that police had confirmed.

The defense lawyers asked for a delay in the trial to investigate custody and court records to determine if Frazier was truthful. The defense also sought to impeach Lockhart’s identifications of Cotton and Legion by presenting evidence that he had also identified Parks as being present in the home shortly after the shooting. The defense noted the unsigned order dismissing Parks’s case. Prosecutor Wagner said that Parks’s case had been bifurcated from Cotton’s and Wagner’s case, but he would not say Parks’s case would be dismissed. Because the case had not been dismissed, the defense could not call him as a witness.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Ryan declined to postpone the trial and a jury was selected. The day ended with the lawyers giving opening statements. The following day, Lockhart testified that he was living in the home and that he planned to help McIntyre rehab homes that McIntyre was planning to purchase, remodel, and resell. Lockhart said he was awakened by gunfire. He said he looked out of the bedroom and saw three men. He identified Cotton and said that Cotton told one of the others to shoot Lockhart. He said he was shocked because Cotton was a friend of McIntyre’s and had been in the house before. Lockhart said he was 90 percent sure that one of the other men was Legion and that Legion had accompanied Cotton to the home on prior occasions.

Lockhart testified that he asked Cotton where McIntyre was. Cotton said, “He straight” and then pointed at Lockhart and added, “Kill him.” Lockhart said Cotton was talking to Legion. At that point, Lockhart said he fired a pistol once and then, when the gun jammed, he slammed the door and barricaded it shut. He said that after hearing nothing further, he eventually came out. By that time, police had arrived.

During cross-examination, Lockhart admitted that he had not identified Cotton to police immediately after the shooting and only did so when shown the photograph lineup on February 15, 2001—about three weeks after the crime. Lockhart denied that drugs were sold out of the home or that McIntyre was dealing drugs. He admitted that he initially told police that Cotton and the two other men chased him around the house before they left.

Lockhart also admitted that after police first questioned him right after the shooting, officers “didn’t really take a statement from me. They…said I’m a lie [sic], I’m a crock of shit.”

Donald Rem, a police evidence technician, testified no evidence was found to show that a gun was fired inside the house as Lockhart claimed.

Detroit Police Sgt. Carl Frederick testified that immediately after the shooting, Lockhart changed his account of what happened several times.

Santonion Adams, a Detroit police officer who said he was McIntyre’s cousin, said he had borrowed a van from McIntyre an hour earlier. He had just returned to drop it off when he saw men on the front porch. He said he heard McIntyre call out to him and then gunfire erupted. Adams said he got on the floor of the vehicle and then tried to pull out his service revolver but couldn’t because it was tangled in his sweater. However, he said, he found another handgun under the front passenger seat and fired shots in the direction of the muzzle flashes near the front of the house. He said he bailed out of the passenger side of the van and ran for help, but lost the gun (which was never recovered) during his flight. He said he was unable to identify the gunmen. His service revolver was taken into evidence and four bullets were missing from the clip.

Frazier testified that on June 28, 2001, he was removed from his jail cell and taken to the “bullpen,” where he was waiting to be taken to court for an appearance on his case. Individuals are kept in separate holding cells prior to appearing in court. Frazier said that he was in a holding cell separate from Cotton. Frazier said he was known as “Old School” because he had prior experience in the criminal justice system. Frazier said that someone who was with him in the cell had also been charged in the case with Cotton.

According to Frazier, the man, whom he first identified as “Anthony” told Cotton to ask Frazier for advice on whether to take a jury trial or a bench trial in Cotton’s upcoming murder trial.

Frazier admitted that the person he said was “Anthony” was in fact Devonte Parks. The defense contended that Frazier changed his story because he had learned that Anthony Legion was not scheduled to be in court that day and was not in the holding cell, but Parks was in the cell and did have a court date that day.

Frazier said he advised Cotton to take a jury trial. He said Cotton admitted that police knew he was at the scene of the shooting. Frazier said Cotton told him he and the others went to McIntyre’s house to rob it. According to Frazier, Cotton said they thought the house would be vacant. Frazier said Cotton didn’t admit to shooting anyone, but did say that “shots were fired.” Frazier also said that Cotton said the owner of the house was named “Jay” and that when they went into the house someone named “Ken” was in a bedroom.

Frazier said he couldn’t see Cotton during the conversation because they were in different holding cells, but he saw him when Cotton came out of the cell to go to an area where defendants were allowed to change out of jail uniforms into street clothes prior to going to court.

Frazier also testified that Cotton said that he wanted to have Lockhart killed because he was the main witness against him. “They said they was going to try to get him [Lockhart] because he was…an eyewitness.”

Frazier admitted that Cotton “never said he pulled the trigger.”

Frazier also testified that Cotton said police knew he was at the scene because a witness identified a green Chrysler Sebring as being present and that Cotton was driving the car, which belonged to Cotton’s mother.

Frazier said he wrote a letter to the Prosecutor’s office on June 29. On October 5, a detective came to him and took a statement. He denied that he had been promised any help on his pending case in return for his testimony.

Prosecutor Wagner asked, “Were you threatened at all by anybody to give this statement?”

“No,” Frazier said.

“Were you…promised anything by anyone?” Wagner asked.

“No,” Frazier replied.

“Then why did you do it? Why did you come up with the statement?” Wagner asked.

“Because…one of the guys who was in the bullpen was the wrong guy and no sense [of] him going down for something somebody else did,” Frazier said.

“Did you kind of secretly hope that the Prosecutor’s Office or the police department would do something for you?” Wagner asked.

“No,” Frazier said. “Because ain’t nothing they can do.”

The prosecution called two witnesses who were not present during the shooting, but were at the house shortly before it occurred. One witness was McIntyre’s sister, who came to the house to borrow money for school from McIntyre. The other was McIntyre’s girlfriend, Lovely Kimble, who left the house after McIntyre said he had to leave to “go on a run.” Both women said that some men were on the front porch or inside the house. Their descriptions of the men did not match the descriptions of Cotton, Legion, or Parks. Kimble did identify Cotton as someone she had seen in the house.

During closing argument, prosecutor Wagner said that although the defense had attempted to suggest that the house was a drug house and that McIntyre was dealing drugs, there was no such evidence. “If he was selling drugs—and we have no evidence of it...so what?” Wagner said. “He had a right to live and he should have lived.”

Wagner also noted, “Mr. Frazier has not been promised anything nor has he asked for anything.”

On October 19, 2001, the jury convicted Cotton and Legion of first-degree murder and illegal use of a firearm in commission of a felony. They were both sentenced to life in prison without parole. On October 22, 2001, Legion pled guilty to second-degree murder for an unrelated crime that occurred after McIntyre was killed. Legion was sentenced to eight to 20 years in prison for that crime.

On October 26, 2001, the prosecution dismissed the charges against Parks.

Legion subsequently filed a motion for a new trial claiming his trial defense attorney had failed to call Parks as a witness and failed to call an expert on eyewitness identification. A hearing was held in December 2002. That motion was denied, although an affidavit from Parks was filed saying he had passed a polygraph when he denied being in McIntyre’s home on the night of the shooting. Parks said that if contacted, he would have testified for Legion.

In October 2003, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Cotton’s and Legion’s convictions. In 2005, Legion filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming his trial had been unconstitutional because the trial judge allowed Frazier to testify about statements made by Cotton and the man Frazier identified as “Anthony,” who in fact was Parks.

In 2007, U.S. District Judge Paul Gadola granted the writ and ordered Legion’s convictions vacated. The judge ruled that Frazier’s testimony violated Legion’s Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

However, subsequently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit set aside that ruling and remanded Legion’s habeas petition for further hearings. The habeas case then was held in abeyance while Legion returned to state court, where he was unsuccessful. He later returned to federal court, which ultimately denied his federal petition in 2017.

Cotton also filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but that petition was denied. Cotton claimed that his trial defense attorney, Robert Slameka, had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call witnesses who would have testified that Cotton was at home at the time of the crime. Slameka was disbarred in 2014 after accumulating more than a dozen reprimands and admonishments for substandard defense work. Two of his other cases resulted in wrongful convictions that ultimately became exonerations—Davontae Sanford and Lacino Hamilton. The denial of Cotton’s habeas petition was upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008.

In 2010, Frazier gave a statement saying that the first time he ever saw Cotton was at Cotton’s trial. He said that when interviewed by a detective, he said that he never saw anyone, but heard two men talking. One said, “I wasn’t even there, man,” Frazier said.

Frazier said he told the detective, “They didn’t do anything.”

Asked if he was promised anything, Frazier said, “The detective that did my statement said I would get out earlier than my one-year sentence after I testified. The prosecutor said it too. And they wouldn’t give me time on my probation [revocation] charge.”

Frazier said he was released seven months early. His probation revocation was dismissed, and his probation was reinstated. “They told me don’t worry about that,” Frazier said. “Prosecutor told me not to say nothing in court about it or getting out early.”

Over the years, other evidence was uncovered. A relative of Cotton provided an affidavit saying that the green Sebring that Frazier said was at the scene had been totaled following an accident in the fall of 1998. Cotton’s mother purchased a tan Sebring in 1999, but that car was disabled at the time of the shooting, according to the affidavit.

In 2014, Frazier gave a sworn affidavit to Cotton saying, “I have never even met or talked to Marvin Cotton, and he did not confess to me about being a part of any crime like I testified to at the trial. All of the information and details in the police statement was pre-written and wholly composed by the homicide detective.”

In 2018, Kristina Dunne, who was representing Cotton, and Katherine Marcuz, an attorney in the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, which was representing Legion, presented the case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit for a re-investigation.

A review of the prosecution’s homicide file showed there were reports indicating that the house on Third Street was the location of drug activity—contrary to the claims by assistant prosecutor Wagner at the trial.

On October 1, 2020, Valerie Newman, head of the CIU, agreed to vacate Cotton’s and Legion’s convictions and the charges were dismissed. Prosecutor Kym Worthy issued a statement saying that the CIU investigation “discovered evidence in this case that was never turned over to the prosecutor or the defense attorney. This simply cannot be tolerated. These defendants were denied a fair trial. The family of the deceased was also denied certain justice.”

“The criminal justice system only works if all the entities do their jobs properly and ethically at every juncture. They cannot take short cuts, bend cases to fit their version of the facts, or be deceitful in any way,” Worthy said in the statement.

The CIU concluded that the lead detective in the case failed to disclose that:

• The investigation of McIntyre’s murder initially revealed nothing tying either Cotton or Legion to the crime;

• Cotton and Legion were only identified as assailants in the murder after the detective repeatedly spoke to a drug dealer informant who was associated with McIntyre;

• The lead detective had multiple interactions with the drug dealer and failed to make any reports about those interactions or make a report of the interview where the drug dealer identified Cotton and Legion. The only official statement in the file was that the drug dealer denied knowing anything about the murder;

• The eyewitness (Lockhart) was not the first person to identify Cotton and Legion. Rather, it was the drug dealer;

• Even though Lockhart knew Cotton and Legion prior to the murder and claimed to have seen them on the night of the murder, he did not implicate them until three weeks later when the lead detective re-approached Lockhart with the information he gathered from the drug dealer;

• McIntyre was involved and active with a drug organization at the time of his death, and the house where McIntyre was living was owned by the head of the drug organization;

• The house was a “spot” that McIntyre was “holding down” and selling drugs from. McIntyre’s cousin—Detroit Police Officer Santonion Adams—was suspected of providing “security” for the organization.

Worthy declined to say the case was an “exoneration.” However, she said, the men’s trial had been fundamentally unfair. “The new evidence undermines the integrity of the convictions due to the denial of crucial [evidence] to the defense…and the prosecution’s presentation of testimony and argument that turned out to be false due to the failure of DPD to provide all relevant case information.”

Legion’s attorney, Katherine Marcuz, said, “It has taken nearly twenty years to correct the immense injustice that occurred against Mr. Legion. The State Appellate Defender Office is thankful to the CIU for righting this wrong. We have been impressed with Mr. Legion’s perseverance and optimism throughout the process, and we look forward to seeing him begin the next chapter of his life.” Legion was released on parole on December 15, 2020, having completed his sentence on the unrelated murder charge. Legion filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan on December 28, 2020.

Cotton’s attorney, Kristina Dunne said, “Marvin Cotton and I are grateful to the CIU for the countless hours they devoted to his case. I am humbled by Mr. Cotton and his family’s perseverance over the last 20 years and I wish them all the very best.”

In October 2020, Cotton filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 10/26/2020
Last Updated: 2/10/2021
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2001
Convicted:2001
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:Life without parole
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:27
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No