One month after a judge ordered a new trial and cast doubt on the evidence against him for murder, Andre Gonzalez is a free man.
Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the case against Gonzalez, who spent 12 years behind bars for a murder outside a North Miami-Dade nightclub, a killing his defense lawyers said he did not commit. Gonzalez, who was also known in court records by the alias Tony Brown, walked out of jail just before noon.
“The sun and the breeze just felt so wonderful, knowing I’m walking on real pavement,” Gonzalez said of walking out of jail. “It’s been such a long time and hard struggle. It’s a wonderful feeling right now.”
Gonzalez, 46, said he plans to reunite with his four children and his fiancée. He isn’t sure what his future holds. “I’m just trying to let it all sink in,” he said.
His freedom came thanks to students from the Medill Justice Project at Northwestern University, who interviewed a prison inmate that admitted Gonzalez was not the killer. The inmate, Arnold Clark, later testified in court that his friend, a DJ at the club that night, was the actual killer, not Gonzalez.
In September, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O agreed with the defense, casting doubt on the state’s key eyewitness and the significance of DNA found on a cap found at the crime scene. He ordered the conviction reversed — and that Gonzalez be given a new trial.
“[Gonzalez] presented credible, admissible evidence demonstrating that the crimes of which he was convicted may very well have been committed by another,” De la O wrote in his order.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, however, “disagrees with this conclusion” and says the judge ignored key evidence — including that the supposed real gunman “was too short to be the assailant,” according to a final memo released on Tuesday.
But prosecutors decided to drop the case because Michael Morris, the surviving victim and key eyewitness, is in a “very fragile state and questions his ability to withstand another trial.” Also, the victim’s DNA has long been destroyed, meaning it can’t be tested on items that might refute Clark’s story, prosecutor Chiaka Ihekwaba wrote in the memo.
“The state of Florida, in no way, believes that this defendant is innocent of the crime,” she wrote.
At Gonzalez’s original trial, prosecutors maintained that he was the one who shot and killed Nigel Whatley during a robbery and scuffle outside the Players Club in October 2005. A surviving victim, Michael Morris, who was wounded in the robbery, identified Gonzalez as the attacker.
But Morris told police he was only “60 percent” certain the attacker was Gonzalez, who also went by the name Andre Gonzalez. Defense lawyers said Miami-Dade police homicide detectives mishandled the photo lineup when interviewing the surviving victim.
Other key evidence was Gonzalez’s DNA, which was discovered on a black skull cap discarded near Whatley’s body, a cap Morris later claimed the gunman wore during the robbery. During the trial, Gonzalez’s girlfriend testified she was with him at the club that night, but took no part in the killing.
His defense lawyers suggested that Gonzalez dropped his cap in the parking lot that night, and detectives planted the idea of the gunman wearing the cap in the mind of the eyewitness. Judge de la O agreed, saying Morris never mentioned the gunman wore a cap until nine months after the shooting.
Jurors in 2010 originally found Gonzalez guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison. Afterward, a Miami-Dade judge granted a request for a new trial, but the decision later was overturned by an appeals court.
As for Clark, he said he initially refused to testify at the time of the crime for fear of reprisals from the nightclub, or the real killer.
4-Year-Old Tests Positive For Crack Cocaine After Bringing It Home From Daycare [Video]
A 4-year-old girl came home from her Bronx daycare with a disturbing surprise — a handful of crack cocaine, and the drug in her system.
A local NBC affiliate reports that Sabrina Straker, the girl’s mother, was shocked when her daughter (Serenity) told her that she put a vile of the drug in her mouth. Now, mom is calling for the daycare to be shut down!
According to the report, when Serenity came went home from Lil Inventors Child Care unusually hyper and with strange capsules in her hand, Straker said her child told her that another kid in the daycare gave her his “teeth,” but when she looked at the capsules, she knew something was wrong.
Straker immediately took the capsules to local police and after running some tests, narcotics detectives confirmed that they were crack cocaine. Serenity admitted that she had put one of the capsules in her mouth, but spat it out. Still — she was rushed to the hospital, where she tested positive for the drug.
“She could have died if she ingested this,” Straker told PIX News. “I was furious.”
Lil Inventors Child Care Director Yvette Joseph said someone allegedly threw the capsules over the fence and one of the kids picked it up.
“We checked our center thoroughly and all of the children are safe,” Joseph said.
Police are reportedly investigating the incident and the family of the child who handed the capsule to Serenity.
Meanwhile, Straker wants the daycare closed.
“No one was watching the children,” she said. “There are 15 kids in the room with two teachers and two aides, where were they when this was going on?”
NY Magee, EURWeb.com
Police chief defends officer after controversial video of 12-year-old’s arrested trying to sell CDs
COBB COUNTY, Ga. – The Cobb County Police chief says he’s opened an internal investigation after an officer was caught on camera arresting a 12-year-old rapper.
Numerous Channel 2 Action News viewers shared the now-viral video with us and criticized the officer for being unnecessarily harsh on a child.
Channel 2’s Tom Jones spoke exclusively with Chief Michael Register, who said his officer didn’t do anything wrong.
Register said there is more to the story than what was caught on camera. But he says because he’s gotten countless phone calls and complaints, he opened an investigation into the incident.
“Does he have a right to put his hands on that child?” Jones asked Register.
“He was within his rights,” Register said.
The child on the video is Corey Jackson, who also goes by Lil C-Note. Jackson is a young rapper who is well known for trying to sell his CDs at local businesses.
The mall considers that trespassing. Chief Register said the mall had given Jackson a criminal trespass warning and told him twice he couldn’t sell CDs on the property.
When a mall security guard caught him in the act on Oct. 6, Register said Jackson became combative so they called over an off-duty police officer. The officer said Jackson tried to bend the officer’s fingers back and push or punch him in the chest.
That part of the confrontation didn’t end up on video, Register said.
What did end up on video was the officer appearing to squeeze Jackson by the arm and argue with him.
“You’re 12?” the officer is heard asking the boy. “You’re about to go to jail. You’re going to go to a youth detention center if you don’t [inaudible].”
Jackson argued back.
“He told the police officer, ‘I don’t have to speak with you. I know my rights,'” Register said.
The camera is jostled as an apparent altercation breaks out and the video ends with the officer calling in the incident as another officer restrains Jackson.
Jesus: Grandmother Charged with Murder After Stabbing & Baking 20-Month-Old Baby
According to the Associated Press, on Tuesday, October 16, Carolyn Jones was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for the horrific death of her 20-month-old granddaughter Royalty Marie Floyd. On the evening of Monday, October 15, the 48-year-old grandmother’s brother is said to have made the gruesome discovery when he opened the oven door and saw the child’s mutilated body.
Stabbed and Baked: When Jones’ brother discovered the child’s body, he immediately called the police and they alerted the sheriff’s office and other first responders for further assistance. Once the child’s body was removed from the oven, officers also noted that she’d been stabbed. Spokesman Warren Strain at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, has revealed investigators are now working to determine the child’s cause of death and the time she died. Right now, police cannot determine whether the child was placed inside the oven before or after she died. The body has been taken to a Crime Lab in Pearl, MS for an autopsy. During a press conference, Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams Sr. released details about the child’s disturbing death. The child was reportedly “living at the residence with Jones at the time of the murder.” He admitted that this case is one of the most horrific he’s seen in his 25 years of law enforcement. “I’ve been in law enforcement a long time, 26 years almost. Some of the most horrific scenes I’ve seen in law enforcement involve children. Those are some of the— they have an effect on us. We don’t want it to happen, but unfortunately, things like this happen.” Williams said, “This is one of the most horrible things I’ve seen.” But Why?…: Although investigators are still working to collect evidence tying the 48-year-old grandmother to the heinous crime, Sheriff Williams has cited that she was the only person inside the home. “That was the only person who was there with the child at the time,” Williams said. The investigation is currently underway as investigators are working to piece together the timeline and determine the circumstances surrounding the child’s death. When asked specific questions about the case, Williams said, “We are trying to figure that out ourselves. We have no idea at this point.”
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