Innocence Project and Conviction Integrity Unit Probe Leads to Reversing Wrongful Conviction After 17 Years

Marilyn Mosby speaking at Hastings Law School in February 2020

By Yasmin Homan & Michele Chadwick

BALTIMORE, MD- David Morris’ murder conviction Wednesday was overturned by Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles Peters after Morris spent 17 years in prison on a wrongful murder conviction.

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) brought the case to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). In 2018, the CIU opened an investigation of the case.

Morris was convicted in 2005 for the murder of Mustafa Carter in 2004. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

After an in-depth investigation, the CIU discovered a variety of evidence that strongly suggests Morris was not involved in the murder and agreed that Morris had been wrongfully convicted.

The CIU found an alternative suspect was identified and investigated pre-trial and this was not disclosed to the defense, DNA evidence on the victim’s pants did not match Morris and the sole identifying witness provided contradictory testimony.

Additionally, arresting Officer Michael Nelson had a misconduct finding that was not disclosed to the defense. Nelson is now on State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office’s “Do Not Call” list for court witness. This list is a list of police officers that have engaged in conduct that renders their testimony unreliable or non-credible in court.

Nelson was later convicted in a federal court of wire fraud related to his selling of fictitious accident/burglary reports.

S. A. Mosby said “This case exemplifies the deeply damaging nature of the historical failures of the criminal justice system and our duty as prosecutors to address the wrongs of the past,” and she extended her sincerest apologies on behalf of the State to Morris.

To the family of Mustafa Carter, S.A. Mosby promises “we will continue to use everything in our arsenal to find your son’s killers.”

The Deputy State’s Attorney, Lauren Lipscomb, noted this investigation would not have been able to be finished without support from the members of the community.

She and Chief Linda Ramirez said they are both very grateful for the family of Mr. Carter, all the individuals who are part of the community, the personnel of BPD Cold Case and the BPD Lab who played a role in providing support and help to get to the point they have reached in the investigation as of now.

Michele Nethercott, Counsel at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and also a former director of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, is very thankful that the results of the UBIPC/MAIP have been verified by the CIU’s investigation.

“The evidence at this trial was incredibly weak, and our post-conviction investigation unearthed even more evidence supporting his long standing claim of innocence,” said Nethercott, adding thanks to all the “former staff, students, and colleagues” for all the input and work they put into this investigation and she cannot wait for Mr. Morris to be set free.

When it comes to the State of Maryland, this was the first CIU and is being governed by Linda Ramirez who is the division Chief, together with four Assistant State’s Attorneys (ASA) and one law clerk. In 2018, the CIU added a new “grant-funded investigator” who is devoted to finding wrong convictions.

The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the University of Baltimore’s innocence Project Clinic both played a part in acquiring a federal grant.

The Conviction Integrity Program (CIP) was established in 2016. CIP’s job is to examine the “extrajudicial claims of factual innocence.” Individuals in CIP are expected to dedicate their time analyzing and inspecting accurate innocence claims, which are about 75-100 every year.

The Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City said the CIU has liberated 11 people who altogether have served more than 280 years in jail for crimes which they did not commit.

In September 2021, the State Attorney’s Office came up with a campaign named the “Faces of Actual Innocence” in order to raise awareness within the community in Baltimore regarding the convictions of individuals who were imprisoned wrongly and to “support crime victims and their family members who were denied justice.”

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