After 19 Years, Judge Throws Out Man's Murder Conviction

Marvin Haynes was 16 at time of Minneapolis killing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 11, 2023 6:55 PM CST
Judge Frees 35-Year-Old Man Imprisoned Since He Was 16
Marvin Haynes stands for a portrait outside his prison cell, March 2, 2023 at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater in Bayport, Minnesota.   (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

A 35-year-old man who was sent to prison for the 2004 killing of a man in a Minneapolis flower shop was released Monday after a judge ruled the eyewitness evidence on which his conviction rested was unreliable. Marvin Haynes, who was 16 at the time of the killing, was released from prison shortly after the judge's ruling, the AP reports. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office said it agreed with defense attorneys that Haynes had proven in court that admitting the shaky evidence violated his constitutional rights during his 2005 trial for the killing of Randy Sherer, 55, who was shot during a robbery. "I just want to thank everybody that supported me through this whole journey," Haynes told reporters outside the prison. "And now y'all can recognize that I'm actually innocent."

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement that Haynes' prosecution was a "terrible injustice." She said that his conviction depended almost entirely on eyewitness identification and that there was no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA, nor video connecting him to the crime. "We inflicted harm on Mr. Haynes and his family, and also on Harry Sherer, the victim, his family, and the community," Moriarty said. "We cannot undo the trauma experienced by those impacted by this prosecution, but today we have taken a step toward righting this wrong."

Judge William Koch, who held a two-day evidentiary hearing on the case late last month, said in his order that Haynes' attorneys, from the Innocence Project, showed he did not match the physical description provided by the primary eyewitness. Haynes was "significantly younger" than description of the killer, about 50 pounds lighter and "significantly shorter," the judge said. Haynes also had "much longer hair" than how the witness described the attacker, and his "manner of speech was not similar."

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The judge also found problems with how investigators conducted a photo lineup that did not include Haynes. The person the witness initially identified, saying she was 75-80% sure, was in another state at the time of the killing. Investigators used an old photo in another lineup from when Haynes had close-cropped hair, but he had grown it long since them. The eyewitness did not identify Haynes as the killer until a third lineup and in her trial testimony. During the hearing, Haynes maintained his innocence, and four of his sisters testified he was asleep at home shortly before the killing. "We are delighted to see Marvin finally regain his freedom and for the truth of his innocence to win out," Attorney Andrew Markquart of the Great North Innocence Project, said in a statement.

(More wrongful conviction stories.)

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