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Ronald Williams

Other Wayne County Michigan exonerations
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On April 18, 2009, 51-year-old Bernard Bradford was assaulted while working at a car wash in Detroit, Michigan. Witnesses said that he was attacked by two men. One struck him with a pole or a pipe, the other with his fist.

The attackers got into a white van and drove off, the witnesses said. After the attack, Bradford walked several blocks to a car repair shop to meet a friend. When Bradford arrived, he had a knot on his head, he was bleeding from his mouth, and had difficulty breathing. Less than a half hour later, Bradford was lying on the floor, clutching his side. When Bradford’s cell phone rang, the friend answered it and spoke to Bradford’s nephew. Eventually, Bradford’s sister arrived to pick him up. When Bradford attempted to get up, he fell back down. He was helped into the car and driven home. He refused medical treatment and went to his room where he was found dead the following day.

A medical examiner performed an autopsy and concluded that Bradford had died from blood loss due a lacerated spleen, most likely from the assault the day before.

Three witnesses told police that Bradford was first attacked by someone nicknamed “Daygo” or “Diego,” and then was joined by another man who emerged from the white van that was being washed at the time.

One witness, Gregory Bradshaw, identified 44-year-old Ronald Williams as one of the attackers. Bradshaw said he knew Williams as “Diego.”

On June 6, 2009, Williams was arrested when he showed up at the car wash driving a black Jaguar.

A police evidence technician had retrieved video surveillance tapes from the car wash. According to the video, the attack took place at 6:27 p.m. The officer would later testify that the tape was 13 minutes slow, placing the attack closer to 6:40 p.m.

Williams was charged with second-degree murder. He went to trial in Wayne County Circuit in December 2009. A mistrial was declared after a prosecution witness accused Williams’s defense attorney, Sequoia Dubose, of offering him money. When these allegations came to light, other witnesses came forward and claimed they were offered money by Dubose and Williams’s father to identify someone else as the assailant.

Dubose denied the accusation, and a mistrial was declared after he recused himself from the case.

Prior to a second trial, Williams’s new lawyer, Vincent Toussaint, said in court that he might need an expert regarding phone logs, telecommunications, and “the tower.” On March 19, 2010, Toussaint said he had been “looking into possibly some experts for the video analysis and the cell phone tower.”

There was no such expert for the defense when Williams went to trial a second time just days later. Bradshaw, who had identified Williams in a lineup and at a preliminary hearing, identified Williams as the man who struck Bradford with a pipe. Julian Latham, a car wash worker, testified that he had seen Williams at the car wash several times prior to the day of the beating. Latham said he knew Williams as “Diego,” not “Daygo.” Latham identified Williams as the man on a surveillance video holding a pipe.

Willie Jordan, another car wash worker, originally told police that he saw Bradford argue with someone who was washing the white van. Jordan knew the van owner as “Daygo.” Jordan said he saw “Daygo” get out of the van and hit Bradford in the leg with a pole. Jordan said Bradford grabbed his leg and started to walk away when the passenger in the van got out and punched Bradford in the face.

Although Jordan had testified at a preliminary hearing and identified Williams as “Daygo” from a photograph, he had refused to make an identification when taken to a live lineup containing Williams. A police officer testified that Jordan refused to look up. The officer said that Jordan claimed he was afraid because Williams’s father and his lawyer had contacted him.

Jordan denied to the jury that Williams was Daygo and said he did not see Bradford’s attacker in the courtroom.

The time of the attack, despite the surveillance video, was in dispute. Bradshaw believed it happened around 2 p.m. Bradford’s mother and sister had difficulty remembering what time Bradford came home. His mother stated that he came home in the early evening, but then said that it was dark outside when he arrived home.

The defense called three witnesses to establish Williams’s alibi. The first was an employee of American Golf Corporation, which managed the Palmer Park Golf Course, an 18-hole course located about 13 miles from the car wash. The employee testified that Williams bought two tickets for a round of golf around 5:30 p.m. The second witness was Williams’s father who testified that he was with his son and they played golf together. He also testified that his son was known as “Poco,” not “Diego” or “Daygo.” He also testified that his son only drove a black Jaguar, and had never seen him with a white van. He also denied allegations that he and Dubose had threatened or tried to bribe witnesses. The final witness was Williams’s landlady, who testified that he only owned a black Jaguar and that his nickname was “Pocko.”

The jury convicted Williams of involuntary manslaughter on April 6, 2010, and he was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.

Williams appealed his conviction, arguing that his defense attorney provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call a cell phone records expert to show the location of Williams’s cell phone at the time of the crime. In July 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Williams’s conviction. Williams filed a motion for reconsideration, and, on August 10, 2011, the request was granted. The case was remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing.

At the hearing in 2012, Williams’s defense attorney, Craig Daly presented testimony from Steven Venable, a retired police detective who worked as a records custodian for MetroPCS, the company that Williams used for his cell phone service. Venable testified that, based on the call records and his analysis of the locations of cell phone towers, Williams’s phone was at Palmer Park during the time of the assault on Bradford. Williams had made a call during the hour between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. which pinged two cell phone towers: Tower 163 and Tower 451. Those towers were in an area that included Palmer Park, Venable said. The action of pinging off two towers during a single call was possible “because the person who has the handset is moving from one location to another,” which was “consistent with somebody walking,” according to Venable.

Venable testified that it would not be possible for a call made from the carwash to hit on those towers because they were too far away. Venable said it was impossible that the calls made on Williams’s phone at the time of the crime were made anywhere close to the carwash.

Despite that testimony, Williams’s motion for a new trial was denied. Daly appealed, and, in June 2012, the Michigan Appeals Court vacated Williams’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

On July 13, 2012, Williams was released on bond pending a retrial.

He went to trial a third time in January of 2013 and chose to have the case decided by a judge without a jury. Venable testified similarly to his testimony at the evidentiary hearing, and, on February 27, 2013, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Linda Park acquitted Williams.

– Maurice Possley and Krysten Diaz-Silveira

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Posting Date: 9/19/2022
Last Updated: 9/19/2022
State:Michigan
County:Wayne
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Convicted:2010
Exonerated:2013
Sentence:10 to 20 years
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:44
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No