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A.G. Hall

Other Baltimore City, Maryland exonerations
On the night of July 13, 1991, the body of 20-year-old Gerard Dorsey was found in front of 539 Brice Street, near the entrance to an alley connecting Brice Street with Payson Street in Baltimore, Maryland. He had been shot in the back.

Two months later, on September 26, 1991, 28-year-old A.G. Hall was charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun to commit a felony.

On April 29, 1992, Hall went to trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The trial lasted less than two days, with the prosecution calling four witnesses and the defense calling none.

Officer Bruce Button testified that he found Dorsey’s body. No physical evidence was found at the scene to link Hall to the crime.

Sergeant Joseph Barrick testified that more than two dozen people had been interviewed and there were only two eyewitnesses to the shooting: Nancy Hill and Gerald Patterson.

Barrick was asked, “Of those 25 to 30 people that you interviewed personally, how many were witnesses?”

“That’s a good question,” Barrick replied. “Two that I know of,” he said, referring to Hill and Patterson.

“Were there any others?”

“The majority of the other ones [gave] just background information – from drug dealers and addicts in that area trying to get some kind of information as to who might be responsible for the crime, but that were not actually witnesses to it, okay?” Barrick testified. “There were some citizens out on the street in addition to these drug dealers. And two of them was [sic] this young lady here [Hill] with her children walking down the street and this other gentleman [Patterson] that was in the car.”

Hill testified that she was contacted by police on September 24, 1991. She said that she was walking down Payson Street with her five children at about 10:30 p.m. when Dorsey ran past her from behind, and knocked down her two-year-old daughter. She said that as she bent over to pick up her daughter, she saw two men chase Dorsey into the alley.

Hill told the jury that the man in front was wearing an orange and purple Reebok sweat suit. She told the jury that the second man pursuing Dorsey was wearing a black hoody which covered his head. She said both men were carrying handguns and that immediately after they entered the alley she heard gunshots.

She identified the man with the hoody as Hall. She told the jury she recognized him and his “neatly trimmed beard” from seeing him at her hairdresser’s home.

Patterson testified that he was riding in the back seat of a truck driven by his brother, Edward Patterson. Edward’s girlfriend, Debra Saunders, was in the front seat. Patterson said they were coming back from seeing a movie when he heard gunshots as they drove on Edmondson Avenue toward Payson Street. He said when they reached the intersection of Edmondson and Payson, he saw two men wearing dark clothes, only one of whom was holding a gun.

Patterson identified Hall, whom he said he knew from the area, as the man holding the gun. During cross-examination by Hall’s attorney, Kenneth Mack Williams, Patterson said that he and Hall went to the same high school. Patterson could not describe Hall’s clothing except to say it was dark. Williams noted that the prosecution had not called Patterson’s brother or the girlfriend as witnesses.

The evidence portion of the trial lasted about five hours over the two days. The jury acquitted Hall of first-degree murder and convicted him of second degree murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

No direct appeal was ever filed on Hall’s behalf. In 1997, Hall’s trial defense lawyer, Williams, was disbarred for attempting to conceal his failure to pursue an appeal for a client, misusing client funds, and failing to file state withholding tax on behalf of an employee.

Over the next 24 years, Hall filed numerous pro se petitions seeking to overturn his conviction. The issues he raised included evidence that Patterson had testified falsely about knowing Hall from high school. Patterson was five years younger than Hall, and Hall had dropped out of high school in 1979 when Patterson was 12 years old.

All were rejected.

In 2004, Hall wrote to the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) seeking help: “I always hear about DNA testing helping out prisoners, but what about prisoners like me that DNA can’t help?”

MAIP began investigating the case in 2005. At the time, the project was supported by a combination of volunteer law students and retired law enforcement officers who worked for free. They did what they could, but made little headway. In 2013, a MAIP staff attorney began filing requests for case documents.

On March 14, 2017, Hall was released from prison on parole. MAIP was beginning to get public records requests and to track down witnesses. The requests generated a trove of police reports that had not been disclosed prior to Hall’s trial that showed that Sgt. Barrick had testified falsely about the existence of other eyewitnesses and that the state had withheld documents that significantly impeached Patterson’s testimony.

The records showed that Patterson actually gave four statements to the police. In his first statement, he said he arrived 10 to 15 minutes after the shooting and did not know who the shooter was. He also told police they should talk to Tyrone Rice, because at the time of the shooting, Rice was at a carry-out food stand near the shooting.

Only after Patterson picked up a heroin possession charge did he change his story and say that he arrived on the scene right before the shooting, heard gunshots, and then saw several people run past his car, one of whom was carrying a gun. He identified Hall in a photo array as the man carrying the gun. During MAIP’S investigation, Patterson recanted his trial testimony to a MAIP investigator, saying that he lied under pressure from police.

MAIP corroborated Patterson’s recantation through interviews with Edward Patterson and Debra Saunders, who both said that the group arrived well after the shooting and could not possibly identify the shooter. Saunders said that she told the police this back in 1991, an interview that was not recorded in the police files and was also not disclosed to the defense.

In addition, the state withheld numerous eyewitness statements that were exculpatory.

“With this evidence now in hand, Mr. Hall respectfully submits this Petition for a Writ of Actual Innocence to finally clear his name,” the petition said.

Sylvester Manning told police he was sitting on the corner of Edmondson and Payson when he heard several gunshots, and saw “a guy chasing another guy and was shooting at him.” Manning said the gunman was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 190 pounds. Hall was 5 feet five inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds. Unlike Patterson and Hill, Manning said the gunman was wearing jeans and a blue baseball cap.

Vivian Williams told police she was sitting in a car near Edmondson and Brice when Dorsey approached. She was talking to him through the car window when two men drew near. The first man was tall and wore a purple sweat suit and baseball cap, she said. She said the other man was about 6 feet one inch tall. Williams told police she heard Dorsey say, “Listen,” and the man pulled a gun and started shooting. Dorsey ran, she said, and she heard several gunshots after that.

Tyrone Rice, another undisclosed eyewitness, was interviewed by police on August 30, 1991. Rice said he was standing with Dorsey in front of Jay’s Carry Out at 2011 Edmondson, between Brice and Payson, when a dark-colored car pulled up and two men got out. Then the car drove onto Payson. The two men approached Dorsey, and one fired a shot, Rice said.

Rice said he then ducked inside the store while Dorsey ran away. Rice told police he recognized the gunman as someone who had previously robbed his friend, Tony Matthews, because of bad drugs Matthews had sold. Matthews had gotten the drugs from Dorsey. Matthews confirmed he had been robbed when interviewed by police. When police later asked Rice explicitly about Hall, he said that he did not see Hall at the time of the shooting.

Other undisclosed reports indicated that several witnesses told police that a person named Marvin or Martin was responsible for Dorsey’s death and that the motive was because Dorsey had been selling bad drugs — a motive that had no connection to Hall. That motive aligned with Rice’s belief that the shooters were the same people who had robbed Tony Matthews because of bad drugs Matthews received from Dorsey.

Based on the withheld evidence discovered in the police files, as well as the interviews with witnesses during MAIP’s years-long investigation, MAIP filed an innocence petition on Hall’s behalf in 2021.

On March 8, 2023, a hearing was held on the petition. MAIP staff attorney Maggie Abernethy, along with former MAIP Board Chair Barry Pollack of Harris St. Laurent & Wechsler and Rey Watson of Kramer Levin, presented testimony from numerous witnesses, including Patterson.

Dr. Jennifer Dysart, an expert on eyewitness identification at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, testified that there were numerous factors present which undermined the reliability of Hill’s identification.

Patterson testified that when he signed the statement implicating Hall, he was “high as a kite,” and that the police told him that unless he implicated Hall, he was going to jail. “They just said, ‘Initial this,’” Patterson testified.

Vivian Williams also testified and said she was 100 percent positive that Hall was not the shooter because he was too short, and she would have recognized him if he were the shooter. Williams said that she had not come forward earlier because she did not learn of Hall’s conviction until MAIP approached her.

On March 15, 2023, Judge Charles Peters granted the petition. He vacated Hall’s convictions and ordered a new trial. The judge said that based on the newly discovered evidence presented, Patterson’s trial testimony had been “eviscerated.”

The judge also noted that at the hearing, “Patterson entirely recanted his trial testimony and stated that he could not identify the shooter.”

“The State appropriately conceded at the hearing that, given the newly discovered evidence, the jury would have entirely discounted Gerald Patterson’s trial testimony,” the judge ruled. That left only Hill’s uncorroborated testimony, the judge said.

On April 18, 2023, the prosecution dismissed the case.

“While the court’s recognition of [A.G.'s] innocence comes three decades too late, it is gratifying that the world now knows that he was innocent all along,” Pollack said.

In 2024, Hall was awarded compensation by the state of Maryland. In April 2024, Hall filed a federal civil rights suit against the Baltimore police department.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/9/2023
Last Updated: 7/5/2024
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:28
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No