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Paul Madison

Other Baltimore City, MD, exonerations
On the evening of January 7, 1991, 35-year-old William Richardson was shot to death in Cherry Hill, a neighborhood on the southside of Baltimore, Maryland. At about 8:30 p.m. a woman told police at the desk of the Southern District Police station that as she was bringing her groceries into her home, she saw a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood in the 2600 block of Carver Road. She told the officers that the body was next to a car that had keys in the ignition with the car radio playing and a door open. The woman left without providing any contact information.

Richardson was found shot in the left side of his head. The bullet was later pried out of the dashboard. While it was determined to be a 38-caliber slug, it was not connected to any weapon.

The car was parked next to a dumpster in a parking lot surrounded by an apartment complex. Officers recovered 95 cents and a pager from the body. Police determined that one of the numbers in the pager belonged to a phone owned by 49-year-old Clarence Colston.

Two days after the shooting, on January 9, 1991, an anonymous female caller told police that Colston, accompanied by his nephew and a man known as “Sandman,” were responsible. On January 11, police interviewed Colston. He said he had paged Richardson twice on the day of the murder, but had not spoken to him. He denied involvement in the shooting.

On January 21, Theresa Hawes, who lived near the shooting, told police that Irma Robinson, who also lived nearby, might have information about the murder. Robinson, it turned out, was in the Baltimore City jail. She had been arrested January 14 on gun and narcotics possession charges.

On January 23, police interviewed Warren “Sandman” Ward, who said that on the day of the shooting, he was at home getting high. His home was directly across from the parking lot where Richardson was shot.

On January 24, police moved Robinson from the jail to the homicide unit where she was interviewed and shown a photographic lineup containing a photo of Colston. Robinson said she was behind the dumpster in the parking lot and saw the shooting. She identified Colston as the gunman and said there was a second man with him. In a separate photo lineup, she identified a photo of Paul Brown, who was actually Colston's nephew, as someone she knew sold drugs in the area, but not as the second man with Colston.

After that interview, police executed a search warrant at Colston’s residence. Colston was not there. The police did not find anything of value and left a copy of the warrant. The following day, Colston called police and wanted to know who the “Paul” was that had been referenced in the search warrant affidavit. When a detective asked him to name anyone he knew named Paul, Colston said he knew Paul Madison.

On January 25, Robinson testified before a grand jury, which indicted Colston on a charge of first-degree murder. On January 28, police interviewed Paul Brown. Brown denied involvement in the murder. He said that Colston had a .38-caliber revolver.

On January 29, Robinson was shown another photographic lineup. She identified a photo of 29-year-old Madison as the second man with Colston when Richardson was murdered.

On January 31, 1991, Madison was arrested. Colston was arrested the following day.

Police compared the bullet recovered from Richardson’s car to the gun recovered when Robinson was arrested and concluded the gun did not fire the bullet. On February 14, 1991, the charges pending against Robinson were dismissed, and she was released.

Colston and Madison went to trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court on August 28, 1991.

Robinson testified that she was walking along a pathway from her house to a shopping center when she heard a gunshot and ducked behind some porch steps. She said she heard a second shot and looked out. She saw Colston and Madison get out of a car. They opened the rear passenger side door and pulled a body out onto the pavement.

She said Colston had something in his hand and “assumed it was a handgun.” She said Colston and Madison walked toward nearby apartments and went through the front doorway to the apartment of Obredella Irving. She said that about 10 or 15 minutes later, she found her boyfriend and they returned to the scene. She said that Colston and Madison were both in the crowd of onlookers.

Robinson testified to her identifications in the photo lineups and identified Colston and Madison in court. She said no promises were made to her for her testimony. She said she had known Madison for about three years and that he had once robbed her.

She said that Colston had telephoned her prior to the trial and told her not to identify him at trial.

Obredella Irving testified that Colston and Madison did not enter her home that night as Robinson claimed. Irving said she was confined to a wheelchair and did not leave her chair or bed to look out of the window after she and her son heard gunshots.

Baltimore police homicide Detective Vernon Holley testified that he arrived at the scene at 9:55 p.m. and examined the car. He said he found blood droplets on the rear floor of the car indicating that Richardson had been shot in the car. He noted that there were red particles of vinyl in the backseat of the car and that he had information that Colston had a coat made of leather or vinyl.

Holley acknowledged that he spoke to the prosecutor overseeing the murder case about the charges that were then pending against Robinson, but said that he never arranged to have the charges dismissed.

Holley testified that there were six numbers stored on Richardson’s beeper and one of them was linked to Clarence Colston’s residence, while the others were unrelated to the case. Holley interviewed Colston, who said that on the day of the murder he worked until 5:00 p.m., attended a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., and arrived home at about 9:45 p.m., after the shooting.

Holley said he began to believe that Colston had guilty knowledge because of inconsistencies in his statements. Initially Colston had told investigators that he paged Richardson twice on the day of the murder, at 5:15 p.m. and again at 9:00 p.m., and stated that he did not go to an NA meeting that day. He said he waited at home until 9:30 p.m. and when Richardson did not return his call, he left and walked up to the shopping center about two blocks from the crime scene to get Chinese food. He said he saw Mitchell Clay on his way home. He stayed at home for approximately 30 minutes and then met up with a woman.

Holley also testified about the search executed at Colston’s residence and how the following day, Colston called to ask about the reference to “Paul” in the warrant. Holley said Colston told him he knew Paul Brown and Paul Madison.

Mitchell Clay testified that two weeks before Richardson’s death, Colston was experiencing financial difficulties and he met with Clay to discuss selling drugs. Clay said he introduced Colston to Richardson as a potential source to supply Colston with drugs. Clay said that Colston and Madison were friendly and that Madison also sought a job selling drugs with Richardson but Clay never made the introduction to Richardson.

Clay said that Colston contacted him from jail while awaiting trial and asked Clay to talk to Irma Robinson and tell her that he was not involved in the murder.

Joseph Kopera, a firearms analyst, testified that he examined the bullet recovered from the victim’s car and determined that it was either a .38-caliber or .357-magnum caliber gun that fired the bullet. He also testified that the gun recovered from Robinson could not have been the gun that killed Richardson.

Frank Peretti, an assistant medical examiner, testified that Richardson died of a contact gunshot wound to the head and he would expect to see splatters of blood generated by the wound but not a large pool of blood because he was shot in the area of his head that was not in proximity to a large blood vessel. He also testified that there were no signs of drug use on Richardson’s arms.

Neither defendant testified at trial. On September 13, 1991, the jury found Colston and Madison guilty of murder in the second degree and use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence. They were each sentenced to 30 years for the murder count and 20 years for the use of a handgun to be run consecutively for a total of 50 years.

The Maryland Special Court of Appeal upheld the convictions in September 1992. Madison filed numerous petitions seeking to overturn the convictions, but all failed.

In August 2019, Madison asked the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Program (CIP) to review his case. Ultimately, the CIP agreed to re-investigate his case. At the same time, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, a joint project of the University of Baltimore School of Law and the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, also began re-investigating the case.

On December 21, 2021, based on motions filed by the defense and prosecution, Madison’s convictions were vacated and the charges were dismissed. He was released more than 30 years from the date of his conviction.

The re-investigations of Madison’s case revealed that the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence prior to his trial that Paul Brown and Warren “Sandman” Ward were suspects in the case. In addition, the prosecution failed to disclose that Robinson’s charges were dismissed because of her testimony. According to the CIP, Holley’s testimony that he had nothing to do with the dismissal of Robinson’s charges “conflicts with available records.” The prosecution, during Madison’s trial, also mischaracterized the benefits accorded to Robinson.

In addition, the re-investigation turned up a witness who said that Colston told him that Madison had nothing to do with the crime, but that he couldn’t do anything about it without implicating himself.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby declared, “This conviction rested on outdated and questionable practices that called into question the integrity of the conviction, which is why in the interests of fairness and justice, my Conviction Integrity Unit moved to vacate the conviction. I want to apologize to Mr. Madison and his family on behalf of a flawed criminal justice system that failed him by wrongly taking 30 years of his life. I wish him all the best going forward.”

Lauren Lipscomb, Deputy State’s attorney, said, "This case against Mr. Madison rested almost entirely on the uncorroborated statements of a jailhouse informant. This would not make it through our present day scrutiny. Given the lack of any other evidence and the age of the case, the investigation proved difficult, but, in the end, [CIP] Chief Linda Ramirez and I determined we lacked confidence in the conviction and had serious doubts as to Mr. Madison’s involvement.”

Shawn Armbrust, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, said, “Paul Madison’s conviction was based on evidence so thin and unreliable that it never should have proceeded to trial, let alone ended in a conviction. Without prosecutors who care about righting past wrongs, however, even convictions this weak are virtually impossible to undo. We’re so grateful to the [State’s Attorney’s Office] for this commitment.”

In 2022, Madison filed a claim for state compensation, which was approved by the Maryland Board of Public Works in September of that year.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/15/2022
Last Updated: 11/8/2022
County:Baltimore City
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1991
Sentence:50 years
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No