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Dartanion Edwards

Other Genesee County, Michigan exonerations
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Dartanion_Edwards.jpeg
Shortly after 8 p.m. on October 9, 2007, 14-year-old Robert Person III was shot to death in front of the Evergreen Regency Apartments at the corner of South Averill Avenue and Lippincott Boulevard in Burton, Michigan, a suburb of Flint.

Person was shot three times and died at the hospital. Police recovered 35 shell casings. The casings were identified as being .762-caliber, .45-caliber, and .380-caliber. During the shooting, one bullet pierced a car driven by 21-year-old Ashlie Dye, who was uninjured. Dye told police she did not see the gunmen—only Person, who was on his bike.

The next day, the police spoke with Person’s good friend, Anthony DeJon Williams. Williams said he and Person spent the afternoon and evening together. After playing football at the Evergreen Regency Apartments, they went to a store on Lippincott with a couple of girls. On their way to the store, a gray van approached them. Williams said Person said, “Don’t look back.”

On their return from the store, the van began to follow them and Person told Williams to leave with the girls because something bad would happen. Williams told police that he and the girls walked away. He said he went into a nearby apartment building and then heard gunshots. Williams was not called to testify at trial. There was no evidence the girls were ever interviewed by police.

On October 13, 2007, four days after the shooting, an SUV driven by Perry Manuel pulled into a Speedway gas station about a mile and a half away from where Person had been shot. Minutes later, a vehicle pulled up to the SUV, and shots were fired. Manuel had been wounded. He sought help from paramedics who were in an ambulance that happened to be at the station. While paramedics tended to Manuel, his front seat passenger, 29-year-old Kino Christian, was seen on a video surveillance camera hiding a handgun behind the station.

After police retrieved the weapon, a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a Michigan State Police crime laboratory firearms analyst said that three of the .380-caliber shell casings found at the scene of Person’s murder were fired by the gun. The gun was registered to a woman who was dating a man named William Harris. Christian was charged with a weapons violation. During questioning, he denied any involvement in the shooting of Person.

Three days later, on October 16, 2007, 15-year-old Jarylle Murphy showed up at the police station, claiming he had witnessed Person’s murder. He was interviewed by Flint police Sgt. Lee Ann Gaspar, who tape-recorded the interview.

Murphy arrived carrying a piece of paper with detailed descriptions of four gunmen that included each shooter’s skin tone, hair color, clothing, height, and age. The descriptions were remarkably detailed. For example, he described one gunman as about 5’11” to 6’0” with dark skin, black hair in long braids, a goatee, both ears pierced, wearing gray Dickies, a black shirt, black Michael Jordan shoes, a do-rag, and a black and gray hat. Murphy also provided a drawing that showed the placement of the four shooters and a description of their four guns: two handguns, one AK-47, and one TEC-9.

He was shown a photographic lineup and identified 17-year-old C’Quan Hinton as one of the gunmen.

The following month, on November 8, 2007, Sgt. Gaspar interviewed Murphy again. Murphy said that on the day of the crime, he had gone to the Haskell Community Center to play basketball around 4:30 p.m. with his cousins. He played a couple of rounds of pool there and then headed to the store. On the way, he ran into his sister and made a plan to go to South Flint to see her uncle. The two traveled to the uncle’s house where they stayed for about 30 minutes.

Murphy said he and his sister then walked 1.9 miles to the Evergreen Regency Apartments where they met Person and began walking around with him. While they were walking, a brown and gray Dodge van pulled up with four girls in it. Murphy said Person retrieved a phone charger and a purple and gray bike from the back of the van.

Murphy said that around 7:00 p.m. two men confronted them. One of the men, named Tony, asked Person, “Why you go and snitch on my brother?” After that, a girl came up to talk with Person for about 30 minutes, but she left before the shooting occurred. Murphy said he and Person started walking on Averill and were almost to the corner of Lippincott and Averill when four men approached them from behind.

Murphy said Person was pushing his bike at the time. He heard gunshots and began running. He said he “couldn’t see them really good,” because all he did was “turn around and take a glance.” He said that two of the four had confronted them earlier and all of them had guns.

Murphy viewed three more photographic lineups. He identified Christian as one of the gunmen. He also identified 19-year-old Dartanion Edwards and Edwards’s 27-year-old brother, Joshun Edwards, as the other two gunmen.

In November 2007, Christian, Hinton, and Dartanion and Joshun Edwards were arrested. They were charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and illegal possession of a firearm.

In January 2009, all four went to trial together in Genesee County Circuit Court. Prior to trial, the prosecution provided the transcript of Murphy’s November interview, but not the transcript of the October interview with Sgt. Gaspar. Instead, a police summary of that interview was provided.

Murphy testified and identified the four defendants. His testimony tracked his November statement to Sgt. Gaspar.

Ashlie Dye testified while wearing handcuffs—she had been arrested on a material witness warrant. She identified Christian as one of the gunmen. She admitted that she had previously had a relationship with Christian and had later obtained an order of protection to keep him away from her. She said she had not identified him right after the shooting because she was afraid of retaliation. She said she knew Hinton and the Edwards brothers and that she did not see them at the time of the shooting.

The prosecution presented evidence that DNA tests had been performed on a few of the shell casings found at the scene. Three male DNA profiles had been detected, but none of the defendants’ DNA was found.

Detective Sgt. Ronald Ainslie, a firearms and tool mark examiner in the state police crime laboratory, testified that he examined the casings and some expended bullets found at the scene. He testified that he compared the casings to the .380-caliber revolver that Christian had attempted to hide behind the gas station.

Assistant Genesee County prosecutor Karen Hanson asked Ainslie if two of the .380-caliber casings “matched” the .380-caliber pistol.

“Yes, that is correct,” Ainslie testified. Ainslie did not provide any evidence about the specific grooves within the gun or about any corresponding markings on the casings that led him to conclude that the gun found at the gas station was used in the shooting that killed Person.

The defense attempted to portray the gunmen as Perry Manuel, the driver of the SUV who was wounded, along with Williams Harris, and a third man known only as “Pooh Bear.” The defense noted that the gun that Christian had attempted to hide was registered to Harris’s girlfriend. The defense contended that Manuel had brought it into the SUV and that Christian merely attempted to hide it so that no one would get charged with possessing it after Manuel was shot.

Prior to the trial, the prosecution had granted immunity to Harris, and, during an interview with Sgt. Garpar, he said he had given the gun to Joshun Edwards before Person’s murder. But when called to testify by the prosecution, Harris said his statement was a lie. He said he gave the false statement after Sgt. Gaspar “told me I either would be a defendant or I would be a witness.” Harris testified that he and Gaspar “just sat there and concocted a story.”

Laquashia Blake, Hinton’s former girlfriend, testified and admitted that prior to the trial, she told police that Hinton told her, a few days after the murder, that he knew who did it, but wasn’t “going to snitch.” In that prior statement, Blake also said that Hinton said that Christian, who was Hinton’s uncle, had committed the murder and had involved Hinton in the crime.

On the witness stand, Blake testified that Hinton also told her that “he didn’t do it, and that it was a misunderstanding, that he didn’t have anything to do with it.” She agreed that Hinton had told her—as the prosecutor phrased it—that the police were trying to get people “to fold,” that he was “not going to fold,” and that “they can’t put me there, or pull my prints off any gun or bullets[.]”

Robert Moore, a jailhouse informant, testified that Christian confessed to the murder while they were locked up together. In exchange for his testimony, the prosecution helped him transfer his probation to another state.

Moore overlapped with Christian in both city and county jails. Moore also met with Joshun Edwards in county jail. Moore testified that Christian said he was upset with Person because he “was a snitch and he had to be dealt with.” He said that Christian said he ran into the girls from the Dodge van at some point on the day of the shooting, who told Christian that they planned to give Person a phone charger and bike. Moore said Christian told him that he and Hinton then confronted Person, and then they went to get guns.

According to Moore, Christian told him that Hinton, Joshun Edwards, and Dartanion Edwards were with him during the shooting and that Person was pushing his bike when they shot him.

The defense attorneys noted that all of the details in Moore’s testimony were in police reports and that all of the information he provided by police prior to trial was contained in the police reports. Moore denied that he had viewed any of the police reports.

Christian testified and denied involvement in the crime. Christian said he was selling drugs out of an apartment several blocks away at the time Person was killed. Christian testified that he told Sgt. Gaspar that the shooters were Manuel, Harris, and “Pooh Bear.” He said that earlier in the day of the shooting, he had been with all three at an apartment when one of them got a phone call. After the call, all three grabbed guns and left, Christian said.

He said that when all three returned, Manuel commented, “Kino, you should have seen [him] fly off the bike.”

Joshun Edwards also testified and denied involvement. He said he was at a different apartment complex at the time of the shooting. Edwards also testified that Harris had admitted to him that he along with Manuel and Pooh Bear had killed Person.

Joshun also testified that Moore, the jailhouse informant, had offered to come forward with information implicating others if Edwards paid Moore. Because of that offer, Edwards testified, “I let Robert see my paperwork. I wanted to show him how these witnesses were lying on us.” Edwards said he let Moore keep the police reports overnight.

Sgt. Gaspar testified that Manuel was dead by the time of the trial. She said there was no evidence that Pooh Bear had ever been identified by police. She said that although Harris had once been a suspect, they never sought his DNA nor did police ever seek the DNA of Manuel.

On February 17, 2009, the jury convicted all four defendants of first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder, commission of a felony with a firearm and illegal possession of a weapon. Each was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hinton was subsequently resentenced to 32 years to 60 years in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court barred life without parole sentences for juveniles.

In 2014, Joshun Edward’s family filed a request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act seeking documents in the case. Among the documents they received was a transcript of the first interview with Murphy.

This transcript had not been provided to the defense prior to the trial—only a police summary of it had been turned over.

Christian, Hinton, and Joshun Edwards subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment, arguing that the prosecution’s suppression of the transcript had rendered their trial unfair. The transcript, they contended, contained numerous statements that were inconsistent with Murphy’s testimony. The statements, they argued, could have been used to impeach Murphy’s testimony.

The motions were denied by the trial court. In October 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the denial. The appeals court agreed that the prosecution should have disclosed the transcript, but ruled that even if the defense lawyers had it, the defendants still would have been convicted.

In July 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the appeals court, vacated the convictions of Christian, Joshun Edwards, and Hinton, and ordered a new trial.

The court held that, “the suppressed transcript would have provided more support for [the defense] strategy than the evidence that was known to defendants at the time of trial. The transcript, which documented the first statement that Murphy gave to the police and the one closest in time to the crime, differed from Murphy’s trial testimony and his other statements in eight important ways: the timeline of events on the day of the shooting, discrepancies regarding the possible motive, the failure to mention a van that figured into Murphy’s later accounts, whether there was a girl present at the shooting, whether it was a shooter or the victim who was on a bicycle, whether Murphy and the victim were sitting down or walking when the shooters approached, discrepancies regarding how well Murphy could see, and where Murphy fled after the shooting.“

The court noted, “Had the suppressed transcript been disclosed, there is a reasonable probability that the result of the trial would have been different. It would have been powerful impeachment evidence of Murphy, the prosecution’s central witness, making defendants’ argument that he was fabricating his story more likely. And if the jury did not believe Murphy, the other evidence would also have been less believable. The state’s suppression of the transcript called the thoroughness and good faith of the investigation into question.”

The court noted that the police summary of the October interview was “incomplete in some places and false in others.” It also “excluded important details from Murphy’s interview,” the court said.

After the ruling, the Michigan Innocence Clinic was appointed to represent Dartanion Edwards. Based on the ruling, Dartanion’s convictions were vacated as well.

All four defendants were released on bond in September 2022. On December 22, 2022, the prosecution dismissed the cases against all four men. In January 2023, Proving Innocence, a Detroit-based nonprofit which assists wrongfully convicted individuals gave Christian, Joshun Edwards and Hinton $1,000. The group gave $750 to Dartanion Edwards, who because he was represented by the Michigan Innocence Clinic, will qualify for $2,000 from the Innocence Network's Edmondson Walking Fund. 


– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/20/2023
Last Updated: 1/21/2023
State:Michigan
County:Genesee
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Attempted Murder, Weapon Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:2007
Convicted:2009
Exonerated:2022
Sentence:Life without parole
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No