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JT Keyshawn Taylor

Other Wayne County, Michigan exonerations
On May 19, 2017, Detroit police officers in the Fugitive Recovery Unit staked out a Toyota Camry parked near Westphalia Street on the east side of Detroit, Michigan. The car was believed to be connected to an earlier shooting that injured a child.

Officer Chad Smith, who was dressed in plainclothes, was the person designated to keep the car in view. Other members of the team were scattered about in the neighborhood waiting for Smith to notify them if anyone approached the Camry.

At about 10 p.m., Smith was sitting in an unmarked car about 60 yards behind the Camry when he saw a black Ford Fusion vehicle pull up across the street from the Camry. There were no working streetlights at the time.

At about the same time, 24-year-old JT Keyshawn Taylor was walking from a family member’s house to the Camry, which belonged to a woman he knew. Taylor intended to retrieve his clothing from the Camry.

When Smith saw Taylor enter the Camry, he pulled up his unmarked car directly in front of the Ford Fusion. Taylor thought he was about to be robbed or assaulted and ran. The driver of the Fusion also had the same fear—he bolted from the vehicle. Smith radioed members of the unit. Taylor stopped running after an officer yelled that he was a Detroit police officer. The driver of the Fusion was never caught or identified.

Officer Smith reported that he found a .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol in the grass on the passenger side of the Fusion. He claimed he saw the gun drop from Taylor’s waist as Taylor ran away.

Taylor was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, felon in possession of a firearm, felony firearm and resisting police. He had prior felony convictions, which prohibited him from possessing a firearm. Because he was on probation for those crimes, he was jailed for violating a provision of his probation that prohibited future arrests.

Officer Smith was the only witness to testify at a preliminary hearing. Following the hearing, Wayne County Circuit Judge Deborah Langston dismissed the resisting police charge. On September 20, 2017, Judge Mark Slavens dismissed the remaining charges.

On September 26, 2017, the same three weapons charges were again filed against Taylor.

At another preliminary hearing on January 30, 2018, officer Smith again was the only witness. He testified he saw the gun fall from Taylor’s waist into the grass.

On May 9, 2018, Taylor went to trial on the weapons charges before Judge Slavens, who heard the case without a jury. Smith testified he saw something fall from Taylor’s waist as he began to run near the Fusion. The object was the .32-caliber pistol, Smith said.

Based solely on Smith’s testimony, Judge Slavens convicted Taylor of all of the gun charges. On June 27, 2018, Taylor was sentenced to five years in prison.

Taylor’s appellate attorney, Ronald Ambrose, discovered that the day after Taylor was arrested, a member of the fugitive unit, Sergeant Ken Dale, had gone to Taylor’s home. Dale had told Taylor’s mother and brother that the criminal charges could “go away” if Taylor helped locate the woman police were seeking in connection with the Camry.

Unbeknownst to Sergeant Dale, Taylor’s brother had audio-recorded the conversation. After listening to the conversation, Ambrose filed a motion for a new trial. Ambrose argued that the tape suggested that Smith had testified falsely about seeing the weapon fall from Taylor.

During the conversation, Sergeant Dale said that Taylor did not have a gun that night—that no gun was found in his possession.

On March 9, 2019, following an evidentiary hearing, Judge Slavens vacated Taylor’s convictions and ordered a new trial. The judge ruled that Taylor’s trial defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to introduce the tape at Taylor’s trial to impeach officer Smith.

Judge Slavens said, “So why did he [Sergeant Dale][ think that he [Taylor] didn’t have a gun on him? Where did he get that from? Where did he get…those facts from? Well, I have a very good suspicion where he got them from—the arresting officer. Where else would he have got that from other than the arresting officer?”

“I’m very disturbed at the prosecutor’s office in regard to this case,” the judge declared as he rejected the argument from the prosecutor that Sergeant Dale was allowed to lie to Taylor’s family.

Judge Slavens noted that he—not a jury—had convicted Taylor. “[S]o I can tell you absolutely that this would have changed the outcome of the [trial] if I would have heard that tape, and I would have very strongly had reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt as I would be, like: [W]here did Sergeant Dale get this idea that the defendant didn’t have a gun on his person, other than [he] heard it from the other officer?”

Although Judge Slavens granted Taylor a bond, Taylor was not released. He remained in prison on his parole violation due solely to the arrest on the weapons charges.

On February 9, 2022, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Taylor was released.

In June 2022, Taylor filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan. In July 2023, the state awarded him $150,000 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/9/2024
Last Updated: 1/9/2024
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2017
Sentence:5 years
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No