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Samuel Randolph IV

Other Dauphin County, Pennsylvania exonerations
On April 6, 2022, the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office dismissed capital murder and other charges, including conspiracy, attempted murder, assault and illegal weapons possession, against 50-year-old Samuel Randolph IV. The dismissal culminated a two-decade legal battle that freed Randolph from Pennsylvania’s Death Row.

His team of defense lawyers had presented evidence of his innocence as well as proof that he had been denied his 6th Amendment right to defense counsel and that prosecutors had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence.

Randolph, who was 29 at the time of the crime, was confined to a wheelchair when he was released, the result of a beating by correctional officers at the state penitentiary in Greene County, Pennsylvania. On May 18, 2009, Randolph was beaten while handcuffed behind his back. He suffered injuries to his back, spine, head and legs which prevented him from walking. Since then, Randolph had been confined to his cell bed without access to showers, the exercise yard, family visits and all programs and services.

The case against Randolph was based upon three separate shootings in September 2001 all of which were precipitated, according to the prosecution, by a fight involving Randolph that occurred on September 1, 2001.

Randolph had been convicted of two counts of capital murder for the shooting deaths of 21-year-old Thomas Easter and 19-year-old Anthony Burton, who were killed in the third of the shootings. Easter and Burton died during a hail of gunfire in Todd and Pat’s Tavern in Harrisburg on September 19, 2001. Five other people in the tavern also were wounded during that shooting: 19-year-old Alister Campbell III, 19-year-old Tameka Latoya Jackson, 17-year-old Lakisha Warren, 40-year-old Reginald Gillespie, and 43-year-old John Brown.

Randolph also was convicted of attempted murder, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and illegal use and possession of a firearm relating to that shooting as well as two other shootings. The first, on September 2, 2001, wounded 19-year-old Gary Waters. In the second, on September 3, Waters was wounded again.

There were different versions of the fight that the prosecution said triggered the three subsequent shootings. It occurred in a bar called Roebuck’s in the uptown section of Harrisburg late on Friday night, August 31, 2001, and spilled into the early morning hours of September 1.

There was no disagreement that during an argument between Randolph and Easter, Campbell and Waters, someone smashed a bottle over Randolph’s head.

Randolph would later testify that he told them to go away, that they were not “on my level,” meaning that he was several years older and more mature. Campbell and Waters claimed that Randolph meant that he was a gangster and more powerful than them.

Ron Roebuck, the bar owner, testified at Randolph’s trial in May 2003 in the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas. Roebuck said that bouncers broke up the fight and Randolph was ejected from the bar. Roebuck forced the others to remain inside the bar to avoid a continuation of the ruckus outside.

On the evening of September 1 when Waters, Campbell and Easter returned to Roebuck’s, they discovered that they were barred from coming inside. Roebuck said that as a result, they went across the street where they were drinking beer and hanging out on the sidewalk. Roebuck, who said he had known Randolph most of his life, testified that in the early morning hours of September 2, he was out front of his bar when a car cruised slowly down the street and words were exchanged between someone inside and Waters and his friends. Not long after, a different car eased down the street. Roebuck said the back seat window was down enough that he recognized Randolph in the back seat. Shots were fired from the car. Waters and the others fired back. Other than a graze wound on Waters’s hand, the only damage consisted of bullet holes and shattered windows of cars parked on the street.

Roebuck told the jury that when he later saw Randolph, he suggested that Randolph should pay for the damages and that Randolph agreed he would.

About 22 hours later, still on September 2, Waters was in a car with Campbell and Easter and they pulled up in front of Waters’s girlfriend’s house. Waters said he was in the seat behind the driver, Campbell, who was behind the wheel. Easter was in the front passenger seat. Waters testified that a car pulled up next to their vehicle and that Randolph began firing two guns. Waters was struck in the back. The bullet exited his arm and grazed his head.

On September 19, Campbell and Easter were in Todd and Pat’s Tavern when a man wearing a hood and a mask popularized in the Halloween movie “Scream” entered and began firing two handguns. Campbell was shot first—in the chest and then in the arm and leg as he fell to the floor. Burton was then shot in the back. The bullet tore through his heart. Easter was shot in the head at point blank range. The others were wounded by the various bullets that were flying. Warren was shot in the buttocks. Jackson was hit in her left foot. Brown, the bartender, was struck in the left shoulder. Gillespie was shot in the thigh.

Randolph was first arrested in October 2001. A warrant was issued for the first shooting based on Roebuck’s identification of him as the driver of the car that fired the shots while cruising past Roebuck’s bar. Police testified at Randolph’s trial that they saw him driving a truck and attempted to stop him, but he sped off. Officers said they followed him to a car wash where they approached with guns drawn. One officer testified that Randolph shouted, “Shoot me! Shoot me!” before they took him into custody.

In the truck, police found two masks and also found Randolph’s cell phone and sunglasses. The masks were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police crime lab for DNA testing. A forensic analyst testified at the trial that there were no bodily fluids found that could be tested. No hair was found for possible comparison either.

Police found a gun in the vehicle and charged Randolph with illegal possession of a firearm. He was released on bond. He had already been free on bond for a fight on September 5 outside Big J’s bar, which was owned by Randolph’s family.

No one had been charged with the other shootings.

In November, police learned that Randolph had left Harrisburg, in violation of the conditions of his bond. A warrant was issued for his arrest and he was taken into custody on November 30, 2001 in Virginia.

On February 7, 2002, Waters was arrested on a charge of possession with intent to deliver cocaine. Up to that point, he had been interviewed by police and said he could not identify the gunman in the Roebuck’s shooting or the shooting in front of his girlfriend’s house. Now, after his arrest, for the first time, he said that Randolph was the gunman in both of those shootings.

Randolph was then charged with the shootings in front of Roebucks and in front of Waters’s girlfriend’s house. At a preliminary hearing, Waters testified and identified Randolph as the gunman in both shootings. At the same time, Waters pled guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to six months of house arrest—well below the sentencing guideline of six to 14 months in prison.

Weeks later, Randolph was charged with the shooting at Todd and Pat’s Tavern. In May 2002, at a preliminary hearing, Campbell, who had survived the three gunshot wounds he suffered at Todd and Pat’s, identified Randolph as the gunman.

When it came time for Campbell to be cross-examined, the prosecutor, Francis Chardo turned over Campell’s first statement right after the shooting in which Campbell said he did not know who the gunman was. Chardo also turned over the statement Campbell gave on March 26, 2001 in which he identified Randolph as the gunman.

What Chardo did not turn over included:

--That the prosecution knew that after the shooting at Todd and Pat’s, but before the police arrived, Campbell gave Amahl Scott a nine-millimeter pistol to take from the scene.

--That Campbell and some of his associates were involved in confrontations with other individuals in the days leading up to and on the day of the shooting at Todd and Pat’s that included robberies and assaults.

--that Campbell had given two other statements after his first statement and prior to his March 26, 2001 statement. In those, he said he did not know who the gunman was, and in one, he denied that Randolph was the shooter.

--That Campbell was arrested on March 26, 2001 for assault and weapons crimes relating to conduct prior to the shooting at Todd and Pat’s Tavern.

--That when arrested, Campbell was in possession of drugs and another nine-millimeter pistol.

--That at 9:40 a.m. on March 26, 2001, Campbell told police he would not cooperate without a deal.

--That Campbell gave his statement implicating Randolph five hours later.

--And that the felony assault charges against Campbell were dismissed on April 15, 2002, the day before Campbell testified before a grand jury and one month before he testified at the preliminary hearing.

After the preliminary hearing Randolph was bound over for the shooting at Ted and Pat’s Tavern. The final piece of the prosecution package was in place.

Attorney Anthony Thomas was present at Randolph’s arraignment, but he did not enter an appearance because he was just two years out of law school and had never worked on a capital case. When the prosecution joined the capital case with the two previous shootings, attorney Roger Laguna, who was representing Randolph on the charges arising from the first two shootings, requested that new counsel be appointed because of the gravity of the capital charges.

As a result, on August 27, 2002, Allen C. Welch was appointed to defend Randolph. However, the relationship between Welch and Randolph soon began to disintegrate. Thomas was then added to the case, essentially to act as a go-between. Thomas later described himself as an “interpreter.”

In December 2002, Welch reported that he was still awaiting discovery materials from the prosecution, and he had just gotten Randolph’s case file from Laguna. Welch, who was running for district attorney in an adjacent county, said he had not reviewed the file. Welch asked for a continuance. The prosecution did not oppose, and the trial was set for February 2003.

On January 3, 2003, at a pretrial conference, Randolph was anxious to go to trial, but Welch was not prepared. He was still waiting for the transcript of Randolph’s grand jury testimony, and he had only recently received more material from the prosecution. He wanted to have time to file and receive rulings on pretrial motions. Randolph told the judge that Welch did “not have my best interest” in mind. The trial judge, Todd Hoover, reset the trial to March 2003.

In February, Welch asked for another continuance because his mother was hospitalized and critically ill. The trial was reset to May 5, 2003.

Over these months, Randolph’s family was attempting to sell their tavern to raise money to hire an attorney of their choice. And during these hearings, Randolph repeatedly expressed his unhappiness with Welch. Randolph said their differences were irreconcilable and asked for different appointed counsel. Judge Hoover refused to do that. He told Randolph his only choices were to continue with Welch, hire a private attorney, or represent himself. At that point, Randolph explained he could not afford a private lawyer and did not feel he could represent himself with the limited access to legal materials that prisoners were accorded.

Several days before the scheduled trial, the family sold the tavern and had the money to hire Samuel C. Stretton. Randolph had been in contact with Stretton since January 2003 about the possibility of hiring him if the sale went through. On Thursday, May 1, 2003—four days before the trial start date—Stretton entered his appearance and moved to continue the trial. Stretton asked for a short continuance because in the upcoming week—the week of Randolph’s trial—Stretton had other matters already scheduled, including a trial on May 8 and 9.

The prosecution opposed any further continuance, noting that 80 potential jurors had been notified to appear for jury selection. Welch joined in the motion for a continuance, emphasizing the breakdown of his relationship with Randolph. Welch also noted that he had limited financial resources as appointed counsel and that Stretton would have greater financial resources to defend Randolph.

When Judge Hoover said he was not inclined to grant a continuance, Stretton asked if jury selection could be delayed for “several days” or even just “a day or two,” so he could familiarize himself with the case.

Judge Hoover said jury selection was “pretty much etched in stone,” but there was a possibility of a brief delay in starting the trial after the jury was selected. No final decision was made.

On Monday, May 5, before jury selection was to commence, Stretton asked for jury selection to be delayed until noon—a delay of just three hours so he could handle a previously scheduled matter. Judge Hoover said he would delay the selection process by one hour, until 10 a.m. The judge then denied Stretton’s motion to continue and moved forward with Welch as the attorney of record.

Thomas also implored the judge to delay jury selection for just a few hours to accommodate Stretton. Judge Hoover declared that Stretton “is not going to be counsel of record at this moment. If he chooses to appear at some point later, we can deal with that at that time.” Judge Hoover then denied Stretton’s entry of appearance.

Welch didn’t give up. He said, “I absolutely had a complete breakdown of communication with my client.” Randolph said Stretton was the lawyer he wanted all along, but only got the money in recent days.

The judge then commenced jury selection. Welch, with Thomas, then represented Randolph during two days of jury selection and the four-day trial of all three shootings. Welch was not ready. He had not spoken to Randolph’s potential alibi witnesses and, according to a sworn affidavit later submitted by Thomas, had not even spoken with Thomas about the trial strategy because of schedule conflicts relating to Welch’s campaign for district attorney.

Roebuck testified that he recognized Randolph as the gunman in the first shooting, Waters testified that Randolph was the gunman in the second shooting. Waters said the car was a station wagon either blue or gray in color. Waters’s girlfriend, Syretta Clayton, testified that she saw Randolph shooting from the car, although it was close to midnight and she was up on her porch.

Campbell refused to testify. He was found in contempt and sentenced to six months in jail. The prosecutor, Chardo, then sought to introduce Campbell’s testimony from the preliminary hearing. In arguing for the admission of the transcript, Chardo declared, “I provided everything that Mr. Campbell said prior to the preliminary hearing and I provided it at the preliminary hearing as the transcript reflects. The only thing I didn’t provide is that which I could not legally, which is his grand jury testimony.”

Judge Hoover allowed the transcript to be read to the jury.

Lateeta Greene testified that she was in Todd and Pat’s Tavern before the shooting. She said that Shariff Layton went into the bar and bought a 40-ounce bottle of beer and left. Five minutes later, the gunman entered and began shooting.

The prosecution also presented evidence that the records retrieved from the cell phone police seized from Randolph showed that Randolph and Layton exchanged messages just minutes before the shooting. Chardo argued that this showed that Layton, who was described as a non-drinker, came in and bought the beer, saw that Easter and Burton were present, then left and informed Randolph.

Amahl Scott testified that he was outside the bar and saw Layton go in and come out with the beer. Scott said that after the shooting, the gunman ran out holding a mask in his hand. Scott said he recognized the gunman as Randolph. Scott admitted that he had not identified Randolph until he was charged with an unrelated robbery. He said that after he gave police a statement implicating Randolph, the robbery charges were dismissed.

Welch and Thomas presented witnesses suggesting that another man had a motive to shoot Easter. That man had been pistol-whipped by Easter and others, according to the testimony.

Mark Perry Sr. testified that he was in the same cell block with Waters after Waters was arrested on the cocaine charges. Perry quoted Waters as saying that the police told him “that if he doesn’t testify that Sam shot him, they can get [Waters] on the murders. They told him if he testifies against Mr. Randolph, he’ll go home. And he did, on house arrest, back out doing the same thing [dealing drugs].”

Perry testified that he reached out to Randolph’s defense lawyers after reading a news story that related Waters’s testimony that he was 100 percent sure that Randolph was the gunman in the second shooting. “And it just pissed me off,” Perry said. “Because he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I don’t know what to do because I don’t know who shot me. Everybody is telling me Sam shot me.’”

Perry added, “He [Waters] wasn’t even looking in the direction [of the gunman] when the bullet hit him.”

Cynthia Glass testified that she was driving on the street near where the second shooting occurred. She said the car was not blue or gray, as Waters claimed, but was in fact orange or red. She also said the gunman was standing behind the car in which Waters was riding—not firing from the passenger side window as Waters claimed.

Two witnesses testified that they were in the Randolph family’s bar on the night of the shooting at Ted and Pat’s and that Randolph was there.

Randolph testified and denied he was involved in any of the three shootings. He denied that he told Roebuck he would pay for the damaged cars after the first shooting. He said that at the time of the shootings, he was working in the family’s tavern. He explained his cell phone exchanges with Layton by saying that he and Layton were friends and exchanged calls and texts constantly every day. Randolph also denied yelling “Shoot me. Shoot me!” at the police who came to arrest him. He said that he shouted, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

“I was in fear of my life,” Randolph testified.

On May 14, 2003, the jury convicted Randolph of all the charges. Prior to the sentencing hearing, Randolph said he did not want to testify or present mitigating evidence. He said he was “not concerned” if the death penalty was imposed because he believed that he had been denied his right to his attorney of choice and deserved a new trial.

After an overnight recess, Randolph repeated his desires not to testify or present evidence. Judge Hoover denied that request. Randolph then said he wanted to proceed without any lawyers. That request was granted, though Welch and Thomas were ordered to act as standby counsel. Randolph then refused to present any testimony, evidence or argument on his own behalf.

The jury voted to sentence Randolph to death.

Two weeks later, according to Thomas, Welch lost his election for Perry County District attorney and complained bitterly that he lost because of “this damn trial.”

In July 2003, Stretton represented Randolph at the hearing when the death sentence was formally imposed. Stretton asked for a new trial based on the denial of the continuance. Stretton also sought a new trial based on witnesses who had come forward to say that at the time of the first shooting, Roebuck was not outside his bar, so he did not see the shooting at all.

The motion for a new trial was denied. In May 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Randolph’s convictions and death sentence, rejecting the argument that he had been denied the lawyer of his choice. The court restricted its ruling on that issue to one paragraph that ended by saying, “We find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s refusal to grant [Randolph’s] request for a continuance.”

The case then began a tortured legal odyssey that ultimately wound up in federal court based on a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Eventually, in April 2017, Randolph’s lawyers, Assistant Federal Defenders Robert Dunham and Anne Saunders, filed a 300-page amended habeas petition which included claims that he had been denied his right to counsel and that the prosecution had failed to disclose exculpatory evidence.

The petition claimed that the shootings were committed by a local group of drug dealers in retaliation for a series of assaults and robberies committed against them by a rival group. The petition said that police and the prosecution withheld evidence that, during a search of a house owned by one of the drug dealers, they had recovered “an AK-47 rifle, numerous bullets of various calibers (including the calibers used in these incidents), gun holsters, $3,800.00 in cash, drugs [cocaine and marijuana], and – in the washing machine – a black hooded sweatshirt, a pair of black jeans, and a pair of black sweatpants” that matched the description of the clothing worn by the killer during the shooting at Ted and Pat’s Tavern.

In addition, another witness came forward and stated that Burton, who had been shot in the back, had been shot by accident when Campbell had returned fire at the gunman.

Judge Connor noted that Randolph’s “pursuit of post-conviction relief has been both protracted and circuitous.” In April 2006, the federal public defenders filed the habeas petition. That action had been put on hold while post-conviction relief was sought in the state court. That petition was never ruled on. After Randolph was severely injured during the beating by guards, he sought to waive state court review and to pursue only the federal habeas petition.

Judge Conner declared, “Years of litigation ensued regarding Randolph’s prison injuries and records, attorney-client visitation rights, discovery,” as well as a proposal from Randolph that he waive actual innocence claims and whether he had the capacity to make such a decision.

Judge Connor ruled that Judge Hoover had erroneously refused to continue the case. “After careful consideration, we hold that Randolph was unconstitutionally denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice,” Judge Connor ruled. He ordered Randolph’s convictions and sentences vacated. Judge Conner did not address Randolph’s innocence claim. He said that “[t]he exculpatory evidence outlined in this claim, if admissible, can be advanced at Randolph’s retrial.”

The prosecution appealed.

In July 2021, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Judge Conner. The appeals court said that granting Randolph’s retained counsel a three-hour continuance to accommodate a previously scheduled court appearance before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in another matter “would not have been unfair to the prosecution, nor would it have strained the state’s interest in the ‘swift and efficient administration of criminal justice’ or permitted Randolph ‘to unreasonably clog the machinery of justice or hamper and delay the state’s efforts to effectively administer justice.’”

“It was just three hours,” the appeals court said.

The prosecution then sought permission to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. While that petition was pending, the prosecution said that Randolph could enter an Alford plea in which he could maintain his innocence, but admit that there was sufficient evidence to convict. After entering the plea, Randolph would be released for time served.

Randolph refused. He later told PennLive, “I didn’t do this. Innocent people don’t plead guilty—as bad as I want to go home.”

On April 4, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the prosecution request for review and, two days later, on April 6, Dauphin County District Attorney Francis Chardo, who had been the prosecutor in Randolph’s trial, filed a motion to dismiss the charges. Randolph was then released.

In the motion to dismiss the charges, Chardo noted that two of the police officers in the case had since died. In addition, Chardo said that Amahl Scott, the witness who claimed that he recognized Randolph as the man who left the tavern after the shooting, told the prosecution that if called to testify, he would refuse. And if forced to testify, Scott said he would testify that Randolph was not the man he saw.

In August 2022, Randolph filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the City of Harrisburg and several officers involved in his wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/20/2022
Last Updated: 9/7/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Assault, Other Violent Felony, Illegal Use of a Weapon, Conspiracy
Reported Crime Date:2001
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No