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Marlon Passley

Other Boston Exonerations
In August 1995, five teenaged boys were standing outside a friend’s house in Boston, Massachusetts when two people approached them on a motorcycle.  The passenger on the motorcycle, who was wearing a helmet, pulled a gun and shot at the boys. Seventeen-year-old Tennyson Drakes was killed and two others, Jerome Simon and Roger Thompson, were wounded.

A sixth boy, who was nearby, identified the shooter as “Kevin,” a man from Cambridge.  Three of the survivors also identified the shooter as “Kevin,” and all four identified 23-year-old Marlon Passley in a photo array and again at trial in Suffolk County Superior Court.

When arrested, Passley admitted that he had been known as “Kevin” and lived in Cambridge, but said that he was at a family member’s graduation at the time of the shooting.  When police searched Passley’s home, they found a green mesh shirt matching the description witnesses had given of the shooter.

At trial, a criminalist with the Boston police department crime laboratory testified, over objection, that there was a small stain on Passley’s shirt. It was tested one year after the shooting and tested positive for the presence of blood. The criminalist testified that the stain was too small for serological analysis.

Despite several witnesses who confirmed his alibi, a jury convicted Passley of first-degree murder and felony assault in October 1996. He was sentenced to life in prison 
On February 9, 1999, Passley’s conviction and sentence were upheld.

A month later, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office learned that an inmate had identified another man, John Tibbs, as the shooter.

Subsequently, Tibbs confessed to the murder and Passley was released from prison on April 16, 1999.  In 2000, the Superior Court vacated all of Passley’s charges.

In 2008, Tibbs pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The sentence was to be served concurrently with a 27-year sentence he received in federal court for a narcotics case that involved another fatal shooting.

Passley later filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from the state of Massachusetts. The case was settled for $500,000.

One of the detectives in Passley’s case, Daniel Keeler, would later be involved in three other murders that resulted in exonerations, in part due to Keeler’s misconduct—Donnell Johnson , Sean Ellis , and Shaun Jenkins.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 1/13/2022
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1995
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No