On May 21, 1965, the Tek-Ni-Kal Employees Credit Union in Warren, Michigan, was robbed at gunpoint of $4,200. The robber was wearing sunglasses and a straw hat. The witnesses included an employee and manager at the credit union, along with a customer. After viewing a book of mugshots and an in-person lineup on the afternoon of the crime, none of the witnesses were unable to make an identification.
The next day, both the employee and the manager identified the mugshot of Louis Nasir as the robber. Nasir, a 28-year-old used-car salesman, had not been in the previous day’s in-person lineup, and it is unknown whether his mugshot had been among those viewed by the witnesses. Nasir had a gambling record, and his mugshot was in police files from a previous arrest, which may have been another case of mistaken identification. Later that same day, the employee and manager viewed Nasir through one-way glass in a single-person show-up, and both again identified Nasir. A week later, all three witnesses identified Nasir in a lineup.
Nasir’s armed robbery case went to trial in January 1966 in Macomb County Circuit Court. The defense presented six of Nasir’s co-workers as witnesses. Each testified that Nasir was at work at the time of the robbery. But the three witnesses to the crime testified for the state and identified Nasir as the robber. The jury found Nasir guilty on January 27, 1966, and he was sentenced to seven to 20 years in prison. Nasir began serving out his sentence at Jackson State Prison. After his conviction, Nasir’s wife filed for divorce. They shared four young children.
Nasir’s court-appointed appellate lawyer, Fred A. York, was a former chief trial attorney for Macomb County and a former Michigan assistant attorney general. Doubting Nasir’s guilt, York aggressively investigated the case in search of evidence of Nasir’s innocence. This search led York to a jail inmate in Detroit who told York and police that Nasir was innocent. This man was the “customer” who had identified Nasir in the lineup and also testified as a witness at Nasir’s trial. He admitted that he had actually been an accomplice to the crime and that his role had been accompanying the armed robber into the bank while posing as a customer. This accomplice told police that the actual armed robber had been shot to death on February 7, 1966, and that Nasir had not been involved in the crime. On March 13, 1967, Warren police arranged for Nasir to take a polygraph examination, and his responses were determined to be truthful.
Evidence related to the true perpetrator was presented to the court by York, prosecutor George Paris, and the Warren police. On the basis of this newly discovered evidence, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Edward Gallagher ordered Nasir’s release on March 15, 1967 and then dismissed the charges against him at the request of Paris.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.