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Marvin Haynes

Other Hennepin County, Minnesota exonerations
On Sunday, May 16, 2004, 57-year-old Cynthia McDermid was working at Jerry's Flower Shop, a family-run business in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The shop was staffed exclusively by the Sherer family including McDermid and her 55-year-old brother, Harry Sherer.

At about 11:45 a.m., a young Black man walked into the store. McDermid didn't know him, but later said she thought she had seen him before in the neighborhood, maybe waiting for a bus. The man said he was looking for a flower arrangement for his mother's birthday. As McDermid chatted with him about possible flowers, he mentioned that his mother was a chiropractor and that he was going to school.

After the man selected an arrangement, McDermid turned her back to him to prepare the flowers. She said the price would be $40 to $50. The man said he would put it on his Visa. When McDermid turned around, the man was holding a silver gun about 12 inches from her face. The man told her that he wanted the money and he wasn't joking. McDermid said she would get the money from the till, but he said he wanted the money from the back.

At that point, Sherer walked in and told the man that there was no safe and no money. At that moment, the man moved the gun away from McDermid's face, and she bolted from the shop. She heard two shots as she ran. She went to a nearby house, yelling for help. She later said she saw the man walking down the alley with his hood over his head.

A woman at the neighboring house called 911. McDermid told the operator that the gunman was a thin Black male, in his early 20's, and about 5 feet 10 inches or 5 feet 11 inches tall. She then rushed back to the flower shop where she found her brother had died. When police arrived at the scene, she reiterated her initial description, including that the assailant weight approximately 180 pounds and wore his hair in a short, close-cropped style.

Andrew Stender, a Minneapolis police canine officer, came to the scene with his dog. Stender took the dog to a place outside the building, where the suspect was last seen, and gave him a “track” command. The dog went north through the alley and stopped at a parking area on Sixth Street North.

A bloodhound officer came and with his dog tried to track the person who had been in the flower shop, this time using the green wrapping paper that the suspect had leaned directly over while he was trying to rob the store. The bloodhound took the same route and stopped around the same place Stender's dog had stopped.

Rodney Timmerman, a sergeant with the police department's crime lab, took photographs and searched for possible fingerprints. Two bullets, but no casings, were found at the scene, indicating that a revolver had been used. Because Timmerman was told that the suspect had touched the greeting card shelf and some cards, he dusted them for fingerprints. He found two identifiable prints, but they belonged to a police officer. Five other fingerprints were found.

On May 17, 2004, Sergeant Bruce Folkens, who was not part of the investigation, conducted a photographic lineup with McDermid. McDermid identified one individual in the six person lineup as the gunman with 75 to 80 percent confidence. She said she was still in a state of shock and could not be 100 percent certain of the identification.

The photograph she picked was of a man named Max Bolden, filler who had been in South Dakota at the time of the crime.

On May 18, police received an anonymous tip that the gunman was nicknamed “Little Marvin,” prompting them to focus on 16-year-old Marvin Haynes. They arrested Haynes on an outstanding warrant for a curfew violation. He was questioned and denied having any involvement in the crime.

That same day, Dennis Maki, a St. Louis Park police officer and Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer was working at the St. Louis Park junior high school. He was approached by a student, Ravi Seeley, who told him that he might have information regarding the flower shop murder. Maki contacted Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Mattson, who met with Seeley the next day.

On May 19, Seeley was shown a photographic lineup. He identified Haynes as the person he had seen leaving the flower shop. During this lineup, police used a two-year-old photograph of Haynes, which showed him with a much shorter hairstyle than his afro, contemporaneous with the homicide.

McDermid was also shown the same photographic lineup on May 19 and the same live lineup on May 20, 2004.

McDermid was also shown the same photo lineup on May 19 and identified the old photo of Haynes. Although her first photo lineups were conducted by officers who were not connected to the case—a practice known as conducting a "blind" lineup—Mattson and his partner, Sergeant Michael Keefe, opted to conduct this photo lineup themselves, in violation of Hennepin County policies in place at the time.

When McDermid saw the photograph of Haynes, she allegedly said, “That’s the guy. That’s him.”

On May 20, Seeley and McDermid were subsequently shown a live lineup. This lineup also was conducted by Mattson and Keefe. Haynes was therefore shown to both witnesses a second time. Both witnesses eventually identified Haynes, but both also expressed doubts during the procedure.

On May 19, Haynes was charged with first-degree murder and second-degree assault.

Police then began questioning Haynes’s friends and family. . They focused on 14-year-old Isiah Harper, Haynes’ first cousin. After unsuccessfully soliciting a statement during their first few interview attempts, police conducted a custodial interrogation with Harper. Eventually, Harper told police that before the robbery, Haynes had told him and a few others that he was going to “hit a lick”—slang for committing a robbery—and simultaneously grabbed at his pocked as if he had a gun. In addition, Harper said that Haynes later called him and said he had shot a white man in the head because he wouldn’t give up the money.

Fourteen-year-old Anthony Todd, an acquaintance of Haynes's, also was questioned. He gave a statement on June 18, 2004. Todd initially told the police that he had not heard anything about hitting a lick or about robbing someone. However, police investigators went to talk to him again after they learned that he had been sent to St. Croix boys' camp. This time, he said that on the morning of the murder, he was with Harper and the others when he heard Haynes say he was going to hit a lick.

In August 2005, Haynes went to trial in Hennepin County District Court. McDermid testified and identified Haynes as the gunman. Dr. Kathryn Berg, who had performed an autopsy on Sherer, testified that the cause of his death was a gunshot wound to his chest. The bullet had gone through the ribcage and had entered the lung in two places, the aorta, and the trachea, and had exited the right side of the chest. He had also received minor wounds from another gunshot, and several abrasions, possibly from falling down after being injured.

Officer Stender said that when his dog stopped tracking in the alley, it was consistent with someone getting into a car and driving away.

Officer Timmerman testified that he found seven fingerprints, two of which belonged to police officers. Haynes was excluded as the source of the five other fingerprints, he said.

McDermid testified and express edno doubt that Haynes was the man she saw in the shop.

Seeley testified that the Sunday a week before the shooting, which was Mother's Day, he and his cousin had left church early to buy their mothers some roses at the flower shop. Seeley said that a person approached him and asked if he wanted to buy some weed. Seeley said the man said something else about money, but he didn't remember what it was. He said the man gave them directions to the flower shop.

The following Sunday—the day of the shooting—Seeley said that he saw the same man whom he'd seen the week before. Seeley also said that he heard a gunshot around the same time. However, he said he could no longer remember if the person he'd seen the week before was the man he saw before or the man he saw after the gunshot. He said he was mixed up about the two men he'd seen the week before, and he was no longer sure about his identification of Haynes. He said he had expressed his reservations to the police.

Seeley also testified that he had doubts about the accuracy of his identification at the time of the live lineup, which he had communicated to the police. Seeley said he could no longer be sure about an incident he didn't remember that well.

Officer Mattson testified that when McDermid identified Haynes in the photo lineup, she had a shocked look on her face. The next day, when McDermid viewed the in-person lineup, she was “a wreck,” in part because this lineup was being held on the same day as her brother's wake. Mattson said that when McDermid saw Haynes, she “sat bolt upright,” pointed at him, and said he looked like the man she saw. They tried to repeat the lineup, but McDermid was unable to finish it lineup because she was having trouble focusing and noted that the faces of the individuals were blending together.

Mattson acknowledged that Haynes did not match the description of the robber that McDermid had given them. She had said that he had a thin build, was in his early 20's, had a close-cropped natural hairstyle, was 5 feet 10 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed around 180 pounds, spoke with clarity, as if he had an education. Haynes was 16 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds, and had his hair in an Afro. In addition, at the time of the murder, Haynes was enrolled in an alternative high school designed for students struggling in traditional learning environments. it was noted that the photo of Haynes that police used in the photo lineups was two years old, depicting him with much shorter hair that more closely resembled the description provided by the two eyewitnesses.

When Harper took the witness tand, he attempted to recant his prior statement. Harper said that he didn’t remember who was at Muffy’s house on the morning of the shooting. He testified that his prior statement to the police was false, that Haynes never told him that he was going to “hit a lick,” and that he never spoke with Haynes after the shooting. Harper said that he previously gave a false statement because the police threatened him with 15 years in prison if he did not cooperate. He admitted that his prior testimony to the grand jury, which tracked his police statement, was perjured.

A recess was declared, during which Harper consulted with his attorney and the prosecutor, Mike Furnstahl. When the trial resumed, Furnstahl saaid that the state would agree not to pursue perjury charges based on Harper’s testimony in court that day, so long as he told the truth going forward. Resuming direct examination, in fits and starts, Harper eventually provided the basic facts against Haynes from his prior statement.

Harper testified that the police had taken him to the police station four or five times and each time threatened him that if he didn't cooperate, he would have to serve fifteen years in prison. Harper said that during those conversations, the police gave him details about the case, and told him what they believed had happened. In all these conversations, Harper said, he kept telling them that he had no information. Harper said that finally they wore him down, and, on May 28, he had given a statement. The prosecution was allowed to introduce that statement as substantive evidence.

Anthony Todd also testified that he had been with Haynes at Muffy’s house on the morning of the shooting and that he had heard Haynes state that he was going to “hit a lick.” Todd testified that Haynes left with a friend in a green Ford Explorer. Seeley had initially said he left in a white Chevrolet.

Jennifer Coleman testified for the state that she had a conversation with a person she identified as Haynes on the morning after the shooting. Coleman said that Haynes said he had shot some old white man. She said she had another conversation with him outside his house on Russell Avenue. At that point, she said, Haynes told her that the police were looking for him and he had to stay inside.

However, Coleman could not identify Haynes in court. In addition, the house Coleman talked about as being Haynes’s was actually the house where another person named Marvin—Marvin Miller—lived. Jyssica Warfield, a friend of Coleman’s, testified that she had heard Haynes bragging about shooting a man at the flower shop. Warfield acknowledged that she had been asked to identify the person she had talked to in a photo lineup in 2004, and she couldn't make an identification at that time.

Haynes testified and denied any involvement in the murder and aborted robbery. He said that on the night before the murder, he was at Muffy's house, along with some other friends, including Harper. He said no one talked about committing a robbery. He said he left Muffy's house around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., dropped off his cousin, Harper, and went home. He fixed himself something to eat, and fell asleep on the couch, watching television. He testified that he was in bed until getting up around 3:00 p.m., after which he changed his clothes, and then went out to hang out with his friends.

He said that he woreh his hair in an Afro at that time of the shooting. The defense presented his booking photo, taken three days after the shooting, which was markedly different from the photo that had been used in the photographic lineups. He denied telling anyone that he had shot an old white guy.

On September 2, 2005, the jury convicted Haynes of first-degree murder and second-degree assault. Haynes erupted in anger.

“I didn’t kill that man!” Haynes yelled.

On September 27, 2005, Judge Robert Blaeser sentenced Haynes to life in prison. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed his convictions in January 2007.

In June 2023, Andrew Markquart, Anna McGinn, and Jazz Hampton, attorneys for the Great North Innocence Project, filed a petition for post-conviction relief seeking to vacate Haynes’s convictions.

The petition said that Seeley provided an affidavit in 2022 saying that he never got a clear view of the gunman’s face and had no confidence in his prior identifications. He said that he felt pressured by police to make an identification and stick with it to make sure they caught a dangerous person. He said he was never sure, but was worried he would get in trouble if he was not cooperative.

Harper also provided an affidavit saying police repeatedly threatened him with criminal charges if he did not cooperate. He said his statement implicating Haynes was false and was given after officers said he would go to prison if he did not help them. He said he was scared and confused and felt that he had no choice but to tell the officers what they wanted to hear. He said that his attempt to recant during the trial was genuine, but during a break in his testimony, he was threatened with criminal charges unless he stuck with his original statement.

Todd also recanted to Haynes's attorneys, saying that police threatened him with criminal charges if he did not cooperate. He said he broke down and said Haynes had said he was going to hit a lick, using language that the police offered. Todd said his testimony was false, and that Haynes never said such a thing.

Another witness who had not testified at the trial, Ashley Toten, provided an affidavit, Toten said police pressured her to implicate Haynes, corroborating the recantations of Seeley, Harper, and Todd, who said all they had been subjected to intense police pressure.

Four of Haynes’s sisters provided affidavits that accounted for Haynes’s whereabouts prior to the shooting, when he was supposed to be at Muffy’s house planning the robbery. All provided statements consistent with Haynes’s trial testimony. One sister, Marvina Haynes, recalled confronting Haynes at 10 a.m. on the day of the shooting about taking her Nike Air Jordan sneakers. She said that he was asleep when she arrived, they argued for a bit, and she left the house as he went back to sleep. Each of his sisters recalled seeing Haynes go back to sleep around 10:30 a.m., around the time that two of his other sisters, Cynthia and Sherita, went to church.

The petition also presented a 61-page report from Dr. Nancy Steblay, professor emeritus of psychology at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Dr. Steblay, a leading expert in the area of eyewitness memory, police procedures, and eyewitness evidence, outlined a litany of ways in which the eyewitness procedures used by police in the investigation went against best practices and called into question the reliability of any identifications made by the witnesses. Dr. Steblay also pointed out the obvious incongruities between the eyewitness’s descriptions of the perpetrator and Haynes.

Dr. Steblay noted that the police had broken with best practices for conducting identification procedures by exposing Haynes to the witnesses multiple times, by using the out-of-date photograph of Haynes, by including multiple suspects in a single lineup, by including fillers who did not match the suspect’s physical features in obvious ways, and by having officers who knew Haynes was a suspect administer the lineup.

McDermid’s selection in the first lineup of a filler “demonstrated an unreliable memory and a willingness to incriminate an innocent lineup member,” Dr. Steblay's report said. McDermid died in 2020.

In November 2023, Hennepin County Judge William Koch held an evidentiary hearing, during which Haynes again testified and maintained his innocence. In addition, retired Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Michael Keefe testified that, as an investigating officer on the case, he himself had objected to some of the problematic lineup procedures, but had been overruled. He testified that, of the thousands of felony investigations he had worked on during his career, Haynes’s conviction was the only one where he had doubts as to the convicted defendant's guilt.

On December 11, lawyers for Haynes and Hennepin County District Attorney Mary Moriarty jointly asked that Haynes’s conviction be vacated. The motion was granted, and the charges were dismissed. Judge Koch issued a dismissal order that said that the defense had presented “sufficient evidence to show that the identification procedures were contrary to then-operative policy governing such identification procedures and were unnecessarily suggestive.”

“The eyewitness identification was the strongest, most compelling evidence linking [Haynes] to the crime,” the judge's order said. “And it was constitutionally improper."

In an interview, Moriarty said, “There was a terrible injustice done in this case. We can’t give Mr. Haynes back these past 19 years in prison, but we can do our best to make it right for him today.” “There was no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA,” Moriarty said. “There was no video connecting him to the crime. The murder weapon was never recovered.”

“I think Marvin’s story can be an inspiration for people who are still fighting their cases,” said Markquart, managing attorney for the Great North Innocence Project. “Unfortunately, it takes far too long…and our laws make it far too difficult to get this kind of relief. But hopefully his story provides some hope for those still out there fighting.”

Haynes was released more than 19 years after the day he was arrested. In a statement, he thanked the Great North Innocence Project “and everyone who has supported me through this long journey.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/18/2023
Last Updated: 12/18/2023
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:2004
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No