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Raymond Flanks

Other Orleans County, Louisiana exonerations
On November 17, 2022, 59-year-old Raymond Flanks was exonerated of a 1983 murder in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was released from prison after serving nearly 39 years from his arrest.

Flanks was 20 years old when he was arrested on December 23, 1983 for the robbery of a supermarket. Police put his photograph into a photographic lineup and showed it to Faye Carnesi.

On December 17, 1983, Carnesi had been in her car waiting for her 69-year-old husband Martin Carnesi. She noticed a Black man wearing a shower cap walk up just as Martin came down the sidewalk from their home in New Orleans. The man announced a robbery and shot Martin once in the chest. The robber then reached into the car, took Faye’s purse, and fled. Martin Carnesi died.

Faye was extremely distraught. She passed out and was revived. She described the gunman as a Black male with a mustache, in his late 20’s, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and about 150 pounds. The police report said the gunman sped off in a light blue car—the make and model were unknown.

The police noted that there had been similar robberies targeting elderly people in the same neighborhood on November 29, December 3, December 8, December 12, and December 18.

In the December 3, 8, and 12 robberies, the perpetrator was described as a Black male wearing a shower cap. The victims were, like Carnesi, elderly and white and were on the street or in a parking lot in the same neighborhood where Carnesi was killed. In two of those crimes, the victims said the robber had a soft or polite manner of speaking. The victim of the December 3 robbery said the gunman was in his 30’s. The victims of the December 8 robbery said the gunman was clean shaven and had a small pug nose.

By the time Flanks went to trial in Orleans Parish District Court in 1984, he had pled guilty to the supermarket robbery.

On the day that Flanks was arrested for the supermarket robbery, police seized a gun from him, and he was driving a light blue 1982 Chevrolet Citation. A New Orleans police department analysis reported that the gun was the weapon used to kill Carnesi based on an analysis of the bullet retrieved from Carnesi’s body and a shell casing found at the scene. Flanks was charged under the name of Raymond Flank.

Although Flanks was younger than the robber described by Faye Carnesi as well as the other victims, he did not have a pug nose, and his facial hair was different, police put his photograph into a photographic lineup. Police said that Faye Carnesi had identified a photograph of Flanks as the man who shot her husband.

The defense learned of the analysis of the gun just before the trial and requested an independent analysis. The trial judge allowed for the review, but declined to grant a continuance, so nothing was done.

Flanks went to trial in Orleans Parish District Court in August 1984. The prosecution sought the death penalty. Faye Carnesi identified Flanks as the gunman. And a police officer testified that the gun recovered from Flanks on December 23, 1983 was the gun used to kill Carnesi. Flanks’s brother, Ralph, testified that Flanks was at home at the time of the murder.

A mistrial was declared, however, when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Prior to the second trial, an analysis of the weapon by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms excluded the weapon as the source of the bullet and casing, so there was no firearms analysis testimony when Flanks went to trial a second time on May 14, 1985. The prosecution again sought the death penalty. Without the firearms analysis evidence, Faye Carnesi’s testimony was all that was left of the prosecution’s case.

Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney James “Jim” Williams, Faye Carnesi described how she came to identify Flanks out of the photos presented in the photographic lineup by the lead detective, John Dillmann.

“I glanced at these -- In other words, I looked at four of them at first and I put them on the side,” she said. “I had two left and I looked at them. I looked at one picture and then looked at this and I got hysterical, and said, ‘This is the man. I am sure this is the man.’”

She continued, “I said, ‘I am sure this is the guy. I am sure this is the guy.’ I started shaking and I grabbed my son-in-law's hand so tight until his hand was white from me gripping it. I said, ‘Get me a flashlight, Jerry. Let me look. I have to be positive. I do not want to accuse anyone of killing my husband unless I am sure.’”

Faye testified that when she aimed the flashlight at Flanks’s photo, she knew “it was him. This is the man that killed my husband. This man. I can't never forget his face never, ever. If I live to be a thousand years old. Every night when I go to bed I see this man shoot my husband.”

Detective Dillmann testified that Faye aimed the flashlight at Flanks’s photo, she began to weep, and said she was positive Flanks was the gunman. Dillmann said he did not “do anything to influence her to set her up to pick out the picture.” He also said he was positive that neither he nor anyone else did anything to influence Faye.

Dillmann also told the jury that on the day of the crime, Faye told him that she saw “a late model automobile” flee the scene.

Flanks’s brother again testified that Flanks was home at the time of the crime. On May 15, 1985, Flanks was convicted of first-degree murder. The jury voted against capital punishment, and Flanks was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for the supermarket robbery.

Decades later, Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) filed a public records act request and obtained Faye’s previously undisclosed grand jury testimony as well as numerous police reports relating to the Carnesi shooting and the other similar robberies.

These reports presented a different picture of the evidence—much of which contradicted or undermined Faye’s identification of Flanks.

For instance, Faye had told the grand jury that when she was shown the photographic lineup, she said she remembered “one thing about this man. He had a little white blotch on the side of his cheek, a little white mark, like discolored looking.” Flanks did not have such a blotch.

She testified that Detective Dillmann had shaken his head from side to side and said, “That’s him.” She said she concluded that the photograph of Flanks that she was shown did not show the side of his face with the mark.

The reports showed that on the day of the crime, the perpetrator’s car was described as of unknown make and model. The reports of the other robberies said the robber drove an old car that was either light gray or light blue. Faye had said she only saw the back end of the car as it fled from her husband’s murder. In her grand jury testimony, she said the car was old and pale blue. At trial, Dillmann testified that she told him it was a light blue late model car.

Flanks, when arrested, was driving a light blue 1982 Chevrolet—only one year old.

In May 2022, IPNO attorney Richard Davis presented its information to the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. In 2021, Jason Williams, newly elected District Attorney, had created a civil rights division to reinvestigate claims of innocence, wrongful convictions, and excessive sentences.

On November 14, 2022, Davis and the prosecution submitted a joint agreement and motion to vacate Flanks’s conviction.

The motion outlined the evidence that had not been disclosed to Flanks’s defense at the time of his conviction.

“The parties agree that, in this case which relied on a single eyewitness, competent counsel armed with the favorable evidence would have been able to present a compelling case that Mrs. Carnesi was innocently mistaken when presented with the wrong suspect, that [Flanks] did not resemble the perpetrator and that the car he was arrested in did not fit the one at the crime scene,” the motion said.

The motion noted: “The jury heard that Mrs. Carnesi had ‘20/20’ vision while wearing her glasses and was standing face-to-face with the perpetrator during the crime. Counsel armed with the favorable evidence would have been able to ask her about her testimony to the grand jury that she could not ‘see too well, you know, to drive at night.’”

The motion said that the undisclosed evidence would have allowed Flanks’s defense attorney to show that Detective Dillmann “altered the age of the perpetrator, age of the perpetrator's car, appearance of the perpetrator's gun, and appearance of the perpetrator's mustache to fit the State's case” against Flanks.

On November 17, 2022, the motion was granted, the conviction was vacated, and Flanks was released.

In a statement, IPNO said: “Detective Dillmann has been implicated in three prior wrongful convictions. [Assistant District Attorney] Jim Williams has also been implicated in three prior wrongful convictions. In fact, Mr. Williams secured the notorious wrongful conviction and death sentence of John Thompson the week before he secured the wrongful conviction and life sentence of Mr. Flanks. “

IPNO attorney Davis declared: “It is unconscionable that we are still finding unreviewed wrongful convictions caused by John Dillmann and Jim Williams, and I am sure that there are more still to find. It is also unconscionable that neither man has suffered any professional consequences for their misconduct. The criminal legal system still does not do enough to address the harm it does to Black people.”

In November, Flanks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of New Orleans, the New Orleans police department, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office, former detective Dillmann, and other unnamed officers.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/3/2023
Last Updated: 4/16/2024
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1983
Sentence:Life without parole
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No