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Marc Douglas

Other Westchester County, NY, Exonerations
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On February 25, 2006, two men wearing hoodies and ski masks broke into an apartment in Peekskill, New York. They roused the only occupant, 19-year-old Jerry Newton, who was napping, punched him, told him to get up, and then shot him in the leg.

After they fled, Newton called his sister, Yolanda, who came to the apartment. She called 911. Police later reported that Yolanda said she was “not aware” of anyone who wanted to harm her brother.

In the ambulance on the way to the hospital and at the hospital, Newton told paramedics and police that he did not know who shot him. After being treated, police told Newton they had recovered 30 ecstasy pills and crack cocaine in the apartment. They threatened him with criminal charges unless he came up with the name of the gunman. Newton told police that 22-year-old Marc Douglas had given him drugs on consignment and that Newton still owed Douglas money.

Newton said that the gunman had said, “Where’s my shit?” Newton said he recognized the voice as Douglas’s voice. Newton also said that Douglas was his only source for drugs.

Later that same day, police arrested Douglas at his Peekskill home and charged him with burglary and assault. Douglas denied involvement in the crime. He said he and a friend, Marcus Shelton, had spent the day driving around the Bronx on Fordham Road and visiting jewelry stores. Douglas said he and Shelton had stopped at a gas station on the Major Deegan Expressway on the way back to Peekskill.

He said that after he returned to Peekskill, he received a phone call from Eddie Reaves. Reaves reported that “Loopy,” which was Newton’s street name, had been shot. Douglas said that when he got the phone call from Reeves, he also was with Jaron Sligh, who knew that Loopy was Newton’s nickname.

Peekskill Detective Marcos Martinez then used Douglas’s cell phone to call Shelton, and asked him to come to the station. Shelton arrived with his brother, a former police officer. Shelton corroborated Douglas’s account. Martinez falsely told Shelton that Douglas was suspect in a murder, and asked if Shelton knew Jerry Newton. Shelton said he did not (because he only knew Newton as “Loopy”), which Martinez seized upon as evidence that Shelton and Douglas were lying.

Shelton agreed to stand in a lineup. Afterward, Martinez told him he could go home because no one picked him out. Martinez did not write up a report of his interview of Shelton or create a report about the lineup.

Subsequently, Douglas was indicted on charges of assault, burglary—both felonies—and misdemeanor charges of criminal possession of a weapon and criminal mischief.

Despite Newton’s claim that Douglas was his only source, Newton continued to sell drugs while Douglas was in jail. On four occasions in April 2006, less than two months after he was shot, Newton sold drugs to an undercover police informant at the apartment of his sister, Yolanda, where he was staying.

On May 2, 2006, police executed a search warrant at the apartment and recovered drugs and a .38-caliber revolver with a defaced serial number. Newton was not there, but Yolanda and her boyfriend were. Both were arrested on charges of possession of drugs and the gun.

And in September 2006, Newton was arrested in Putnam County on drug possession charges. He admitted he was carrying crack cocaine.

The following month, Newton’s lawyer in the Putnam County case reached out to the office of Westchester County District Attorney Janet Fiore to find out what the prosecution would do if Newton would admit to ownership of the gun found in Yolanda’s apartment. Westchester County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Moore said the state would agree to a sentence of one year in jail if Newton pled guilty and that the sentence could be concurrent to any sentence imposed in the Putnam County case. And, Moore said that if Newton took the deal, the gun charge against Yolanda would be dismissed.

In January 2007, Newton agreed to plead guilty to the Putnam County drug charges for a sentence of 18 months in state prison. When the case came up in court, though, Newton’s attorney asked for a continuance because he was trying to work out a “joint disposition” with prosecutor Moore.

By March 2007, when Douglas was scheduled to go to trial in Westchester County Supreme Court, Newton had become a reluctant witness. He had stopped returning phone calls from the prosecution and ignored subpoenas. Finally, Newton told the trial prosecutor, Timothy Ward, that he did not want to testify. On March 15, 2007, Ward obtained a material witness warrant and soon after, Newton was arrested. Ward then told Newton he would put in a good word for him with Putnam County prosecutors if he testified and identified Douglas.

Newton agreed and told the jury that Douglas shot him. He testified that he recognized Douglas’s eyes and voice.

Yolanda testified and falsely said that when she first arrived at Newton’s apartment, he told her that Douglas was the gunman. She said she didn’t tell police that information at that time because she believed it was her brother’s responsibility to identify Douglas.

There was no physical evidence connecting Douglas to the crime. Police had not found the presence of gunshot residue when Douglas was arrested. His fingerprints were not found in Newton’s apartment. The gun was never recovered.

Newton’s defense attorney did not call Shelton or Sligh as alibi witnesses, apparently because she could not find them. She called a jewelry store owner, who remembered that Douglas had been in his shop but could not remember the date or time.

Prior to the trial, police had obtained a statement from Tyrell Moseley that Taquan Shealey had admitted to shooting Newton. The defense had asked that both be made available to testify at the trial. Both were in custody at that time and were kept in the Westchester County Jail. Despite Moseley’s claim that Shealey shot Newton, all three were put in the same holding cell.

So it was not a surprise that neither Moseley nor Shealey admitted having any knowledge of the shooting. And Newton stuck to his story that Douglas was the gunman.

The defense attorney also sought to call a Putnam County Jail corrections officer who had been at the jail when Newton was arrested in Putnam County on the drug charges. The corrections officer had reported that Newton admitted that Douglas had not shot him. At the trial, Newton had denied making the statement, and the corrections officer refused to testify.

During prosecutor Ward’s closing argument to the jury, he argued that the statement “Where’s my shit?” proved that Douglas had to be the gunman because Newton only got drugs from Douglas. That was a false argument since the prosecution knew Newton had been arrested in Putnam County with cocaine after Douglas was arrested.

On March 23, 2007, the jury, after two hours of deliberation, convicted Douglas of burglary and assault as well as criminal possession of a firearm and criminal mischief. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In September 2009, the Appellate Division, Second Department upheld the convictions.

In 2017, represented by attorney Devereaux Cannick Jr., Douglas filed a motion for a new trial based on the failure of his defense lawyer to call the two alibi witnesses. That was denied.

In June 2019, Douglas filed a second motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, including the failure of the prosecution to disclose that Newton got even more favorable treatment than was disclosed at the trial. In addition, the motion contained a statement from Newton recanting his identification of Douglas. He admitted he had falsely identified Douglas after he was threatened by police with drug charges and also because of the help he got on his open cases after he testified. In addition, he admitted he had not told his sister, Yolanda, that Douglas was the gunman.

Shelton and Sligh signed affidavits corroborating Douglas’s alibi. And, an investigator for Douglas presented an affidavit saying that Yolanda admitted she had lied at the trial about her brother telling her that Douglas was the gunman. Moreover, the corrections officer gave a sworn statement that he had heard Newton say that Douglas didn’t shoot him.

In addition, the motion noted how the prosecution had failed to disclose Newton had gotten one year in the Putnam County Jail instead of 18 months in state prison, as well as a 90-day sentence for the crack and ecstasy pills. The prosecution had not disclosed that the gun charge against Yolanda was dismissed as part of Newton’s deal.

The prosecution opposed the motion, claiming that Douglas was procedurally barred from raising the issues, and arguing that there were no deals made with Newton.

In May 2020, Judge David Zuckerman granted Douglas a hearing on his motion. The District Attorney’s office then commenced a re-investigation of the case and assigned two prosecutors who had no prior involvement in the case.

The prosecutors interviewed Newton, who said Douglas was not either of the two men who broke in. The prosecutors also uncovered the evidence of the deals with Newton that had been previously denied.

Investigators for the prosecutors also interviewed a person in custody, Jason Tinsley, who said that Shealey had admitted to Tinsley multiple times over the years that he and another person—not Douglas—had committed the crime.

Based on this evidence, on December 21, 2020, the prosecution agreed to vacate Douglas’s convictions. The charges were dismissed, and Douglas was released.

In April 2021, attorney Arthur Larkin filed a claim for damages on behalf of Douglas in the New York Court of Claims. The complaint outlined the failures of the prosecution to disclose evidence as well as the recantations and new evidence pointing to Shealey.

In addition, the complaint alleged that police had gone to the gas station on the Major Deegan expressway where Douglas and Shelton said they stopped on the way back from the Bronx on the day of the shooting.

“On information and belief, [Detective] Martinez and/or other police officers went to the gas station…and confiscated or destroyed video proof from security cameras that Douglas and Shelton were there on the day of the crime,” the complaint said. “Neither Martinez or any other police officer(s) reported that they had located, and then hidden or destroyed, video evidence that corroborated Douglas’[s] alibi.”

In December 2021, Court of Claims Judge Walter Rivera dismissed the claim. The judge ruled that the dismissal of Douglas’s charges in Westchester County Circuit Court had been pursuant based on a provision of the criminal code that was not included as “an enumerated ground” in the New York Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment statute.

Douglas’s attorney, Larkin, filed an appeal that was pending in March 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/17/2022
Last Updated: 5/17/2022
State:New York
County:Westchester
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry, Misdemeanor
Reported Crime Date:2006
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:20 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No