The Perils of Eyewitness Identification

"Oppstilling-2" by Oslo police - Torgersen-sa. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Oppstilling-2” by Oslo police - Torgersen-sa. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a scene that has become a staple in modern pop culture.

A witness to a crime walks into a room, looks at a lineup of stone-faced suspects from behind a two-way mirror and dramatically points to the person they saw commit a crime.

From there, it usually only takes a few dramatic speeches from lawyers before that suspect is on his or her way to prison.

As it turns out, the reality of eyewitness identifications is much more complicated and much less reliable than it is presented in movies and television shows. Read more

Charles Young Indicted in Shooting Death of Rokeida Spriggs

Charles Young pleaded innocent to five criminal charges Tuesday in connection to the shooting death of 21-year-old Rokeida Spriggs. A grand jury indicted him on second-degree murder while armed and four related weapons charges, all allegedly committed while he was released in connection with another case.

Spriggs was found suffering from a gunshot wound shortly after 1:00 a.m. in the 4900 Block of G Street Southeast on Nov. 22, 2013. She died at a local hospital later that day.

According to charging documents, a witness told police that on the night of the shooting, Spriggs and two other women saw Young with a large black handgun, shouting in the hallway of their apartment building.

Then one of the women sprayed Young with mace, according to another witness, and Young said, “Why the f–k you mace me?”
Read more

Willard Carlos Shelton Killed in Sunday Morning Shooting

Willard Carlos Shelton died at a local hospital Sunday after being found with gunshot wounds in the 2500 block of Pomeroy Road Southeast.

Police found Shelton, 38, just around 7:04 a.m. Sunday.
Read more

Week in Review

In brief:

No homicides were reported this week in D.C.

Keir Johnson was sentenced Friday to 54 years in prison, including 32 years for the shooting death of Jamal Coates.

Corey Saxton was sentenced to 15 years Friday for the March 5 death of Roshaine Henry. Saxton pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Henry after trying to rob him at gun point.

A judge found probable cause that Nilson Maldonado did not fire accidentally in the fatal shooting of Anthony Sanchez. Prosecutors argued that Maldonado and his friends tried to turn the fatal shooting of Anthony Sanchez into an accident though the evidence shows otherwise.

Donte Graves was sentenced to 10 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting death of Tyrone Joyner. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter after a mistrial in May.

A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the murder trial against Lamonte Perry after jurors were unable to reach a verdict for his charge of second-degree murder. Earlier in the day, jurors acquitted Perry of first-degree premeditated murder, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, carrying a pistol outside of the home, and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting death of Andre Jackson.

Week Ahead

Each week, Homicide Watch brings you a list of upcoming hearings in the cases we follow. All hearings are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. unless otherwise noted. To add an item to the listing, email homicidewatchdc [at] gmail.com. To see scheduled court hearings beyond next week, see our calendar.
Read more

Keir Johnson Sentenced to 54 years for Daylight Shooting of Jamal Coates

Judge Lynn Leibovitz sentenced Keir Johnson Friday to 54 years in prison, including 32 years for the shooting death of Jamal Coates.

Taking lives is the most tragic thing you can do and it’s distressing to see Mr. Johnson, who could have done anything, in this position,” Leibovitz said before delivering her sentencing.

Johnson, along with three other men involved in the case were convicted of multiple criminal counts including conspiracy, murder, obstruction of justice, assault, and weapons charges. Read more

15 Year Sentence in the Death of Roshaine Henry

Corey Saxton was sentenced to 15 years Friday for the death of Roshaine Henry on March 5, 2014.

Saxton pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter for fatally shooting Henry after trying to rob him at gun point. Read more

Prosecutor: “Evidence Contradicts ‘Accidental’ Shooting Claim”

A prosecutor argued Friday that Nilson Maldonado and his friends are working together to turn the fatal shooting of Anthony Sanchez into an accident, but the evidence, she said, shows otherwise.

At a preliminary hearing Friday, Judge Russell F. Canan found probable cause in the case against Maldonado for the shooting death of Sanchez on July 3, 2013. He will remain released under high-intensity supervision.

According to police, witnesses heard Maldonado say, “I didn’t mean to shoot him,” and that Maldonado tried to take the gun from Sanchez, they struggled, and the gun went off. But a medical examiner’s report didn’t match up with Maldonado’s story of a struggle. Read more

Donte Graves Sentenced to 10 years for Killing Tyrone Joyner

Donte Graves is an “absolute menace” who terrorized the streets, prosecutor Michael Liebman argued Wednesday, as Graves faced sentencing for the 2013 shooting death of Tyrone Joyner.

Judge Russell F. Canan agreed, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. “You terrified those people,” Canan said.

Graves, 20, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter after a mistrial in May.
Read more

Mistrial Declared on Murder 2 in Lamonte Perry Murder Case

Judge Lynn Leibovitz declared a mistrial on a single murder charge against Lamonte Perry Monday, after a jury cleared him of some charges and convicted him of one but deadlocked on the final count.

In court, the foreperson of the jury paused for a moment before telling Leibovitz that further deliberations could not help her fellow jurors decide whether Perry killed Andre Jackson.

Two jurors remained opposed a guilty verdict on the second-degree murder charge, the foreperson said. Read more