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Kendale Gordon

Other Orleans County, Louisiana exonerations
At about 10:30 p.m. on August 8, 2009, two gunmen with their faces covered by bandanas kicked in the front door of a home at 1810 Tricou Street in New Orleans, Louisiana and announced a robbery.

Darceleen Comadore, 22, was in the living room. Her 22-year-old sister, Patrice, was in bed. A friend, Earlitta Taylor and her four children were in the kitchen. The men ordered everyone to get on the floor and then went into the bedroom. Darceleen later told police she heard them demanding money from Patrice and then a gunshot. In fact, there were two gunshots.

Patrice was fatally shot in the head. One of the attackers also was shot. His partner, who appeared older, dragged him out of the bedroom. The wounded man fell on top of Darceleen. When he fell, his bandana slipped from his face. Darceleen was able to see him before the older man dragged her into the bedroom and demanded money. She told police the older man hit her in the face several times. Eventually, she was able to find Taylor’s purse. She pulled out $200 and handed it over.

The men then fled in a car. Darceleen called police and told them that the wounded man, who had fallen on her leaving his blood on her clothing, was wearing a red bandana covering his face. The bandana slipped down when he fell. She said she recognized him as someone she had seen in the neighborhood and believed his name was Kendrick or Kendall. She said he had cross tattoos on his forehead and around his eyes. A police officer at the scene told Detective Barrett Morton that the description fit 18-year-old Kendale Gordon.

Shortly after police arrived, they received a report of a gunshot victim lying on the steps of a house at 1731 Mazant Street, about three miles away. Police found 18-year-old Jessie Bibbins III dead from a gunshot wound in the neck. The home was the residence of a maternal relative of Bibbins. Bibbins was wearing a black t-shirt, black jeans, and black tennis shoes. A red and white bandana was around his neck. Next to him was a bloodstained white t-shirt that appeared to have been used in a futile attempt to staunch the bleeding from the gunshot wound.

A witness said that a young man whose hair was in dreadlocks had dropped Bibbins off and attempted to tend to the wound.

Within three hours, Morton put together a photographic lineup that included Gordon and four others. Morton used a pen to draw crosses on the faces of the four fillers. Darceleen identified Gordon as the wounded man. Morton showed Darceleen another photographic lineup containing a picture of Bibbins.

She would later testify that Morton all but pointed to Bibbins. She said he went through the photographs and eliminated them all, except for Bibbins. She said she was 80 to 90 percent sure of her identification of him as the other attacker.

The following day, August 9, 2009, Gordon, whose hair was close-cropped and not in dreadlocks, turned himself in to police after learning he was being sought. He was charged with second-degree murder as Kendall Gordon.

Not long after, Darceleen realized that the attacker who fell on her was Bibbins, not Gordon. She told the police and the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office that she was mistaken. She gave a sworn deposition recanting her identification. She also recanted at a pretrial hearing on a defense motion to suppress her photo lineup identification. The motion to suppress the identification was denied.

Gordon went to trial on June 22, 2010 and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. The trial lasted one day.

Police had recovered a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol on the floor after the shooting as well as two expended shell casings and a clip containing 12 cartridges. The prosecution presented a stipulation that a firearms analyst had concluded that the bullets removed from Bibbins and Patrice Comadore were fired by the same gun. Another stipulation was presented that stated Patrice had died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

Darceleen testified and again said that she had been mistaken in her initial identification of Gordon. She denied that she had not been threatened to change her recantation.

Detective Morton testified that Darceleen identified Gordon in the photo lineup. He also said she had identified Bibbins as the older attacker, though she commented that Bibbins looked young in the photo. Morton denied that he influenced Darceleen’s identification of Bibbins.

August Gaines testified that he saw Gordon on the street at Canal and Basin Streets, about five miles from the Comadore home. He said they had a conversation about 10:30 p.m., at the same time that the crime was occurring. Gaines said he saw Gordon the following day and that Gordon was upset because he had learned police were looking for him. Gaines said he told Gordon not to worry because he had an alibi.

The defense at one point erroneously told Orleans Parish District Judge Frank Marullo Jr. that Gordon already had a life prison sentence for another crime. The defense also failed to elicit testimony about possible other suspects and did not attempt to correct the misimpression that Bibbins and Gordon were known associates.

On June 22, 2010, Orleans Parish District Judge Frank Marullo Jr. convicted Gordon of second-degree murder. In issuing the verdict, Judge Marullo said he found Morton’s testimony more credible than Darceleen’s testimony, and said he believed that Darceleen was recanting because she feared for her safety. Gordon was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In August 2011, his conviction was upheld by the Louisiana Fourth District Court of Appeals. Gordon filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but it was denied in June 2013.

Ultimately, Gordon was accepted as a client by Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO). A motion for DNA testing was granted in April 2019. Forensic Analytical Crime Lab performed testing on the bloody t-shirt that was found next to Bibbins’s body, as well as on the gun, cartridges, and latex glove.

The lab reported that a DNA mixture of at least one major male contributor and one minor male contributor was found on the t-shirt. The major profile was Bibbins. Gordon was excluded as the minor contributor.

Testing on the gun revealed at least four contributors, two of them males. The lab reported that there was “limited evidence” that neither Bibbins nor Gordon were contributors to this mixture.

Testing of the cartridges revealed evidence that Bibbins was a contributor to a DNA mixture of two people. Gordon was excluded.

Testing on the glove revealed Bibbins’s DNA profile. A “trace” mixture was found in tests done on a swab of the bloodstain on the glove and on a swab taken on a portion of the glove that was not bloodstained. The lab reported that it was 35 times more likely that the bloodstain swab mixture came from unknown individuals rather than Gordon. The lab said it was 460 times more likely that the DNA from the other swab came from unknown individuals instead of Gordon.

Police never confiscated Darceleen’s clothing, even though she said that the wounded attacker had fallen on her and his blood was on her clothing.

Based on the test results, IPNO attorneys Richard Davis and Kirschelle McGowan moved to vacate Gordon’s conviction. The motion was joined by Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams and Assistant District Attorney Cormac Boyle of the office’s Civil Rights Division (CRD).

The motion noted that the witness who said he saw Bibbins being dropped off told police that the man who dropped him off had dreadlocks, while Gordon had close-cropped hair. In addition, the witness, who was not called to testify at Gordon’s trial, said the man told him that the victim was “Jessie.” The motion said the man obviously knew that the home was the residence of a relative of Bibbins and therefore was Bibbins’s partner in the crime.

In addition, the motion said that many witnesses, including Bibbins’s mother, his girlfriend, and his best friend “have all stated that Mr. Gordon and Mr. Bibbins did not know each other and were not known to associate with one another.”

The motion also said that the prosecution and IPNO attorneys “are in possession of information which may implicate other known suspects who have no connection to Mr. Gordon.”

The motion said that the “CRD has conducted an extensive and holistic review and re-investigation of Mr. Gordon’s conviction. This Office now believes there is clear and convincing evidence which creates a reasonable likelihood that Mr. Gordon did not commit the offense for which he was convicted and so no rational juror would find Mr. Gordon guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

On December 16, 2021, the motion was granted. Gordon’s conviction was vacated, the case was dismissed, and he was released.

IPNO attorney Kirschelle McGowan said, “I’m relieved that Mr. Gordon will reunite with his family for Christmas. This will be a Christmas his family will never forget. However, Mr. Gordon lost 12 critical years of his life, and of his son’s life, that he can never get back, simply because the State chose not to listen to the victim, Ms. Comadore. Both of these families have suffered tremendously during this ordeal.”

Gordon subsequently filed a claim for compensation from the state of Louisiana and in December 2022, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit under the name Kendale Gordon.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/22/2021
Last Updated: 1/5/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*