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Jermaine Hudson

Other Orleans Parish Exonerations
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On March 1, 1999, 18-year-old Robert Gumpright told his father he had been robbed at gunpoint of about $80 in tip money and a St. Christopher’s medallion as he rode his bicycle home from his bartending job at an Applebee’s in the Algiers neighborhood on the West Bank of New Orleans, Louisiana.

Gumpright would later testify that he went home and woke his father, who then called the police. Gumpright gave a description to a police officer, saying that the person who robbed him was a black male, about 5 foot 8 inches, weighing 140 pounds, wearing a blue cap, a black short-sleeved shirt, and blue jeans. Police canvassed the area but made no arrests.

Two months later, on May 5, 1999, two detectives came to the Applebee’s and asked Gumpright to look at a six-pack photo array. One of the photos was of 20-year-old Jermaine Hudson, who had a previous armed robbery conviction. Gumpright looked at the photos and then told the officers that Hudson was the man who robbed him.

Hudson was indicted on June 29, 1999, and charged with armed robbery and possession of a weapon by a felon.

His trial began and ended on March 22, 2000. The state called only two witnesses, Gumpright and the officer who responded to the 911 call.

Gumpright testified that his bartending job required him to be good at remembering faces. He said he was nervous testifying because he was in the same room with the man who robbed him at gunpoint. He recounted the robbery, telling jurors how Hudson had ripped the St. Christopher’s medallion from a chain around his neck.

A prosecutor asked: “Are you a hundred percent certain that this man right here put a gun to your head and robbed you?

Gumpright responded: “A hundred and ten percent certain.”

Hudson’s attorney did not present any evidence. According to a court transcript, the attorney declined to put a potential witness on the stand, telling the court that he had reason to believe the witness would not tell the truth.

The jury, by a vote of 10-2, convicted Hudson on March 22 of armed robbery. At the time, Louisiana and Oregon were the only states that allowed non-unanimous jury verdicts. Prosecutors separately dismissed the weapons charge.

On April 12, 2000, a judge sentenced Hudson to 99 years in prison after prosecutors invoked his previous felony conviction as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Hudson filed several appeals in state courts, but they were dismissed at the trial and appellate levels.

On April 20, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of non-unanimous verdicts. While Louisiana had already amended its constitution to bar such verdicts, that change only applied to crimes committed after 2018. The newer ruling opened a pathway to defendants such as Hudson.

On February 10, 2021, Jamila Johnson, the managing attorney for the Unanimous Jury Project at the Promise of Justice Initiative in New Orleans, filed a petition on Hudson’s behalf for post-conviction relief based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. While Hudson hadn’t raised the issue of a non-unanimous verdict in his appeals, Johnson said the issue was still preserved; until the Supreme Court’s ruling, she wrote, the claim was not “remotely available.”

By this time, Hudson had been in prison for more than 20 years. On February 26, 2021, Johnson reached an agreement with the Orleans Parish District Attorney. The state vacated his conviction, with the understanding that Hudson would plead guilty to armed robbery on March 24, 2021, and then be released on time served.

Because of scheduling issues, that plea date was moved back to early April. Then, something occurred that Johnson would later call “one of the miracles of the universe.”

On March 25, officials with the district attorney’s office heard from a counselor at a drug treatment facility in Terrebonne County, about an hour southwest of New Orleans. Gumpright was a patient at the facility, and he had recanted his testimony.

Two attorneys with the district attorney’s office quickly drove to the facility and helped Gumpright swear out an affidavit. There was no robbery, Gumpright said. He had spent the money on drugs and been afraid to tell his father what happened. He said that when the police showed him the photo array, he picked Hudson at random.

“For the last 20 years since this happened, I have been tortured by the lie I told,” Gumpright said. “I am sorry for all the pain and suffering I have caused Jermaine Hudson and his family.”

The district attorney’s office found no evidence of contact between Gumpright and Hudson. In addition, Gumpright had no knowledge that prosecutors had already agreed to release Hudson on time served.

On March 26, prosecutors dismissed the charge against Hudson. Emily Maw, chief of the district attorney’s civil rights division, said during a brief hearing that everything Gumpright said in his affidavit was “entirely consistent with the case.” She told the Times-Picayune that prosecutors in 1999 had interviewed an alibi witness for Hudson but disbelieved her.

Hudson was released from prison later that day. He noted that he had turned down a plea deal of five years in prison, because he wasn’t going to admit to something he didn’t do. “I just thank God that it’s finally over,” he said. “Thank God for revealing the truth. I forgive the guy and pray that he gets his life back on track.”

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 4/13/2021
Last Updated: 4/13/2021
State:Louisiana
County:Orleans
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1999
Convicted:2000
Exonerated:2021
Sentence:Life
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No