1994 MSP forensic lab report shows “[no] Negroid hairs . . . that could have originated from David Shelton;” complete report withheld from defense
Rape victim said attacker “could have been a white man,” did not identify him in live line-up that included only Black men
Prosecutor told jury they had no “scientific evidence” related to case
Shelton in letter to State AG: “My skin seems to be my only sin.”
By Diane Bukowski, VOD Editor, and Ricardo Ferrell, Field Editor
DETROIT –Where is the justice in Oakland County? David Shelton, serving 40-60 years for rape since 1994, is hoping that Michigan State Attorney General Dana Nessel, with the Western Michigan University/Cooley Law Innocence Clinic, will be able to win justice for him using over $1 million in federal grants meant to re-examine forensic evidence.
In 1994, David Shelton, who is Black, was sent to Jackson State Prison to serve lengthy jail terms after being convicted in separate cases of raping two white women who lived in the apartment complex where he stayed with his girlfriend. Oddly, the cases were heard in one trial with two juries in front of the late Oakland County Judge Francis X. O’Brien.
Shelton was convicted by an all-white jury in the first case of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced to 40-60 years in prison, and of rape and assault in the second case, for which he was sentenced to 1 to 4 years and 2 years. The second offense allegedly took place two weeks after the first, both in February, 1993.
But in 2017, Shelton obtained Michigan State Police forensic reports, withheld from the defense in 1994. One said that a microscopic examination of hairs found in the bed of the first victim, and on a mask allegedly worn by the assailant, “did not detect any Negroid hairs that could have originated from David Shelton.”
Police had reported the victim originally said that her rapist “could have been a white man” she met earlier in the day at the apartment complex pool. She was not able to identify her rapist in a live line-up, which included only Black men, but did so in court.
“I have been trying for almost three decades to get people to see that I was framed for this crime,” Shelton told VOD reporter Ricardo Ferrell. “The police involved knew I didn’t do it. The prosecutor definitely knew I was innocent, but that didn’t matter. In their eyes, I was an expendable Black man, who they could use to close a case. I hope and pray that the wheels of justice finally begin to roll and that the truth comes out and I’m exonerated and set free.”
Shelton is now 54. His only son David Stinson was just four years old when his father was convicted, but for the past seven years has been fighting to free him.
“Racism, politics and corruption, those are the reasons he got sent to prison and why he’s still in prison,” Stinson told VOD. “Oakland County is a powerful county and that’s likely the reason no one will give the relief to him that he deserves. This justice system is supposed to be fair to all defendants regardless of their skin color. My father was singled out, arrested, investigated, and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, and has spent the last 27 years in prison. Waking up each day knowing that he is innocent is really hard for him.”
According to trial transcripts, the Assistant Prosecutor told the jury in his opening statement on the first day of Shelton’s trial July 11, 1994, “So we don’t have any scientific evidence and you’re not going to hear anything about scientific evidence — or DNA testing, or anything like that.”
The reports, initiated by the Michigan State Police Forensic Lab on Feb. 2, 1993, were not completed until final results were obtained Sept. 16, 1993. The prosecution did not turn over the full report with the final results, according to a letter from Shelton’s first attorney Jerome Fenton dated Sept. 30, 1993, sent to his trial attorney Ben Gonek.
Judge O’Brien and the all-white jury never saw or heard testimony about the following report, dated 9-16-93, which should have raised serious doubts about Shelton’s guilt.
The forensic reports also state that no fingerprints were found on a mask prosecutors alleged at trial was worn by the rapist despite the prosecution’s allegations that Shelton’s fingerprint was found.
If true, that would show the Oakland County Prosecutors violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brady v. Maryland (373 US 83 – 1963), which says ALL exculpatory evidence (favorable to the defendant) from prosecutors or police must be turned over to the defense.
In a pro se application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, Shelton says his trial attorney was guilty of ineffective assistance of counsel on several grounds. Gonek agreed to stipulate to the partial report at trial, knowing it was not complete, without having the MSP forensic lab technician testify to its contents, among other alleged misdeeds.
Shelton was arrested by two Royal Oak Township police officers, Cecil Dawson and Christine Bursey, the same two corrupt cops who would go to prison for ten and 15 years for their roles in selling drugs and protecting drug houses in Royal Oak Township, in conspiracy with Mexican cartels. (See article below, with written version attached in PDF at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/SUPPLIER-TURNED-INFORMANT-BOOSTS-CASE-4-METRO-DETROIT-COPS-GET-PRISON-FOR-DRUG-ROLES.pdf.But evidence of Dawson’s corruption was known well before Shelton’s conviction.
Dawson was cited by U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Solomon v. Royal Oak Township (656 F. Supp. 1254-1986) for running his own security agency on the side while he was the township’s Chief of Police, and getting CCW charges against a security employee dropped.
Judge Diggs Taylor noted that Dawson was one of several Royal Oak Township police employees who likely conspired to frame the plaintiff, Odis Solomon on rape charges, which led to his discharge.
Solomon served as Chief of Police under a 1978 order for superintending control over the Royal Oak Township Police Department imposed by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Hilda Gage because of rampant corruption in the department.
The Judge upheld Solomon’s allegation that he was fired as a whistleblower, and restored his job as Chief of Police with back pay. (See ruling below story.)
The record of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in charging sex crimes with likely insufficient evidence, continuing past Shelton’s conviction, was examined in a Detroit Free Press article, “Oakland Fumbles Sex Charges,” on April 27, 2008.
The Free Press found that Oakland County had won only 50 percent of cases involving sex charges between 2005 and 2008, compared to a conviction rate of 80 percent in Wayne County. Oakland County’s acquittal rate was 35 percent.
“Experts say a 35 percent acquittal rate is a sign prosecutors are bringing cases that don’t hold up under a jury’s scrutiny,” the Free Press said. “‘That’s high and that should give them concern,’ said Abbe Smith, the former deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard University. ‘The charging decision is a critical decision. You should not prosecute every case.” (See text version of complete article below story.)
VOD spoke with Mariah Shelton (shown in photo at top), who was only two years old when her father was imprisoned.
She said, “It took me quite a while to understand that my father wasn’t going to be there for my first day of school, my prom and my graduating high school, and first day of college. I know in my heart of hearts my father is innocent. I just hope the scales of justice will balance out and that the victim steps up and tell the truth, that it wasn’t my father who assaulted her, because the evidence clearly shows it wasn’t him.”
Leslee Moore, who is Shelton’s fiancé, has stood by his side from the beginning, as a dedicated and supportive life partner.
“There’s no way my David raped that woman,” she said. “ I know him better than anyone. Believe me, if he had done this, I would not have been with him for over 13 years,” says Moore.
Shelton’s girl friend at the time of his arrest, Jacqueline White, was not called to testify at his trial, although she had testified in his favor at his preliminary exam. She denied police reports that a Halloween mask fished out of the apartment complex’s trash was involved in the rapes. She said she threw it out because it frightened her child. The police and prosecution produced several masks of different types before settling on the one found in the trash.
The family of David Shelton has told VOD that they are extremely concerned about him because of the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, which has hit the Michigan prisons hard. Shelton is being held at the Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.
The facility is one of the temporary prisons that were constructed in the mid to late eighties intended to temporarily house inmates due to overcrowding issues. Kinross is a pole barn setting where approximately 1,280 inmates are confined in close quarters making the spread of COVID-19 inevitable.
Shelton submitted his case to the U-M Law School Innocence Clinic in 2012 , but was referred to the Cooley Law School Innocence Clinic instead, since it dealt with DNA evidence.
See text of complete article above at: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Clock-ticks-on-inmates-chance-to-clear-names-Detroit-Free-Press.pdf
Shelton said his hopes rose in 2004 when he became involved, along with 140 other prisoners and a Lansing-based Innocence Project, in a successful fight to permanently extend a 2001 state statute that required law enforcement agencies to preserve evidence from cases decided prior to 2001, as long as the defendant is behind bars. Prior to the statute, there was no requirement governing evidence preservation among Michigan’s law enforcement departments, meaning material that could be tested for DNA was lost or destroyed in numerous cases.
One of the Michigan prisoners involved was Kenneth Wyniemko, whose exoneration was featured recently in “The Innocence Files,” a Netflix series authored by the Equal Justice Initiative. But Wyniemko was the only prisoner of those 140 to win exoneration.
At the time, Shelton’s attorneys were trying to get the forensic evidence in his case re-tested for DNA, to strengthen the earlier biological tests on hair evidence excluding him, and to see if the actual perpetrator could be identified. That was not done. Since that time, Shelton says, Innocence Clinics have considered his case three more times, with no resolution.
But Shelton’s son David said he and his family were contacted last year by Atty. Lori Montgomery, of State Attorney General Nessel’s Conviction Integrity Unit. The AG’s CIU and the Western Michigan University/Cooley Law Innocence Clinic received federal grants of over $1 million in 2019 which require the two agencies to assess if unreliable forensic practices led to a conviction in cases of plausible innocence.
VOD contacted the AG’s office through its spokesperson Courtney Covington, who said the AG’s office is not allowing public discussion of individual cases. But Covington did provide VOD with the following update on the project in an email.
“As of today we have received letter requests for assistance from 945 people. We sent applications out and have received 342 applications back thus far. We have sent 75 cases to the Cooley Innocence Project – our partner agency under the federal grant – for further evaluation of forensic evidence.”
Covington said 122 claims have been rejected because they did not meet the projects prerequisites. These include exclusion of cases from Wayne County, (which has its own CIU), or cases in federal court or outside the state.
“Most important, we cannot review legal errors or cases where the claimant has not raised an allegation of new evidence (not offered to the trial court) illustrating innocence,” Covington noted. Shelton’s case does in fact involve such an allegation.
Covington said that the AG’s CIU was announced in April 2019, but did not receive actual funding until January 2020. She said the true impact of COVID-19 in Michigan was not felt until March 9, which has delayed DNA work. Robyn Frankel, the head of the AG’s CIU, worked up until Jan. 2020 reviewing previous Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act claims, which resulted in the AG’s authorization of payment to many claimants.
Frankel provided VOD with an overview of the CIU’s policies and procedures, and an application, at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Michigan-AG-CIU-Overview-and-Application-4.7.20-1.pdf.
Commentary by Ricardo Ferrell: The statewide Conviction Integrity Unit should be all over the Shelton case. This conviction against David Shelton should be the linchpin in revealing the level of corruption out in Oakland County. They’ve gotten away for a long time with targeting Black folks, putting them in jail and sending them off to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. What kind of system of justice sends innocent people to prison and doesn’t think twice about how that impacts families.
VOD has extensively gone over court documents in the Shelton case and doesn’t see how the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in their right conscience could argue for a conviction to stand that isn’t supported by any physical evidence. The DNA itself excludes David Shelton, the fingerprints on the mask, a key piece of the prosecution’s so-called evidence, didn’t match Shelton’s prints and the most shocking piece of evidence found was that of DNA (hair) in the victim’s bed that did not have any Negroid traits. So, how can an African American, namely David Shelton, stand convicted of such a crime?
VOD reports, but when you have corrupt cops, an overzealous prosecutor’s office and a victim willing to give perjured, coached and false testimony against a Black man, you simply don’t stand a chance in the racist Oakland County. It has been this way out in Oakland for decades. Black defendants are treated as if they are automatically guilty. Never mind the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty;’ that premise just don’t count, if your skin is Black.
Shelton’s case is also featured on a national website at https://wronglyconvictedgroup.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/david-sheldon/.
And in son David Stinson’s Change.Org petition https://www.change.org/p/all-evidence-presented-looking-for-representation-in-wrongful-conviction-case-dna-evidence-that-we-provide-exonerates-all-black-men-from-this-crime
MSP LAB REPORTS IN DAVID SHELTON CASE:
SOLOMON V. ROYAL OAK TOWNSHIP:
OAKLAND FUMBLES SEX CASE CHARGES (full article) http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/OAKLAND-FUMBLES-SEX-CASE-CHARGES.pdf
OTHER RELATED STORIES:
STORIES BELOW RELATE TO JUVENILE LIFERS IN MICHIGAN, 200 OF WHOM HAVE NOT BEEN RE-SENTENCED DESPITE U.S. SUPREME COURT RULINGS; Oakland County’s Pros. Jessica Cooper recommended renewed LWOP sentences for 100% of that County’s juvenile lifers.