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Marcus Ealy

Other Wayne County, Michigan CIU exonerations
At about 12:30 p.m. on February 15, 2018, 38-year-old Lelia Richards walked out of Mike’s Market on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. Just as she closed the door of the white Chevrolet Malibu she had just rented for an upcoming trip, a man opened it back up, pointed a gun at her, and demanded her money. Richards threw her purse outside. When the man ordered her out of the car, she ran into the store and called police.

The robber got into her car and drove off. Richards said the robber was wearing a black Carhartt jacket. A review of surveillance video showed a man approaching her car wearing a black Carhartt jacket.

This was the first of several armed robberies that occurred throughout that day in Detroit.

At 2:30 p.m., Breeshawn Sims was robbed at gunpoint outside of a gas station on Linwood Street. She told police she purchased gas and also withdrew $200 from the ATM. When she returned to her car, a man approached and asked for her phone number. She said she told him to back up and he did. Then, he asked for the number once more and pulled out a gun. She said he threatened to kill her, so she unlocked her car door. He took her purse and backpack and got into a car, a gray Chrysler 200 with Ohio license plates. The car sped off.

Later that night, around 8 p.m., Antoinette Cole went to a gas station at 1776 Grand River. A gray Chrysler 200 pulled up next to her with two men inside. A gunman got out holding a gun. She threw her belongings to the men and dropped to her knees. The gunman scooped up her things, including a cell phone and a debit card, and jogged off. She later said she saw him try to rob someone else before he got back into the car, which drove off.

There was at least one and possibly two other robberies that day that appeared to be related. Police were able to view surveillance video from the robberies and determined that the same gray Chrysler 200 was visible in all of the crimes.

Late that night, police spotted the Chrysler parked at a house on Indiana Street in Detroit. While watching the vehicle, police observed 26-year-old Marcus Ealy and a woman get into the car and drive to a nearby gas station. Officers followed the vehicle and saw Ealy go into the station. When he came out, officers approached and Ealy fled on foot. After a brief chase, he was caught and arrested.

Police went back to the house on Indiana. There they arrested Trenton Smith. During a search of the house, police found two handguns, five cell phones, and the keys to the Chevrolet Malibu taken from Richards.

During questioning, Ealy denied involvement in any of the robberies. He said that he had visited his cousin at the home on Indiana Street. He said he had driven the Chrysler, which belonged to Sharlisa Blackmon, because he wanted to buy some drinks and snacks and Blackmon was too intoxicated to drive. He said he ran from police because the first officer to approach him was wearing plainclothes and carrying a gun—Ealy thought he was about to be robbed.

The following day, Richards, Sims, and Cole viewed the surveillance tapes from their separate robberies. All three identified Ealy in separately viewed photographic lineups.

Ultimately, Ealy was charged with five separate robberies, including one in which Smith also was charged. The charges against Smith were later dismissed.

In October 2018, Ealy went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court on three of the cases, which had been consolidated—the robberies of Richards, Sims, and Cole. Richards and Sims both identified him as the man who robbed them. Cole, however, testified that the robber in her case was not Ealy. A Detroit police officer testified that he saw Cole being robbed and that Ealy was the driver of the Chrysler.

On October 12, 2018, the jury convicted Ealy of the robberies of Richards and Sims and acquitted him of the robbery of Cole. In the Richards case, he was convicted of carjacking, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon, use of a firearm during commission of a felony, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, unlawfully taking possession and driving a vehicle, and receiving and concealing a stolen vehicle. In the Sims case, he was convicted of armed robbery, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, possession of a firearm by a felon, and use of a firearm during commission of a felony. He was sentenced on the two cases to 48 to 82 years in prison.

In 2019, a prosecutor—a different prosecutor than the one who handled the three other cases—began examining one of the still-pending cases against Ealy to prepare for trial. In this fourth case, video surveillance showed one of the robbers was wearing a Carhartt jacket. As part of his preparation, the prosecutor reviewed the video surveillance in all of the cases. The prosecutor realized that the man seen wearing the Carhartt jacket in the surveillance video in the Richards carjacking case was the same man as in this fourth case that he was preparing to prosecute—but the man wearing the Carhartt jacket was not Ealy.

The prosecutor reported his conclusions to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) headed by Valerie Newman. When the CIU re-investigated, it concluded that Richards had been mistaken in her identification of Ealy as the man who robbed her and stole the Malibu.

Michael Waldo, an attorney in the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office, was appointed to represent Ealy. The case, which was beginning the appeals process, was remanded back to the trial court by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Waldo filed a motion for a new trial for Ealy. The motion said, “Aside from the fact that Mr. Ealy was driving the suspect vehicle seven or eight hours after this robbery [of Richards], no other evidence directly implicated Mr. Ealy in this robbery. True, the house he had previously departed contained items taken during some of these robberies, but the police identified at least four other people who were at that home and could have been responsible.”

The motion asked that Ealy’s convictions in both cases be vacated because there was no way to tell if the jury had been tainted by Richards’s testimony, which was mistaken.

In May 2020, the convictions in both cases were vacated. On July 28, 2020, the prosecution dismissed the charges in the Richards case. In 2021, Ealy pled guilty in the Sims case and was sentenced to seven to 15 years in prison. The two other cases against him were dismissed without going to trial.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/1/2021
Last Updated: 7/21/2021
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:Other Violent Felony, Theft, Possession of Stolen Property, Gun Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon, Other Nonviolent Felony
Reported Crime Date:2018
Sentence:48 to 82 years
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No