Murder defendant seeks to throw out identification
Says state-specific procedures weren’t followed
YOUNGSTOWN — An aggravated murder defendant is asking that the testimony of an eyewitness be suppressed from his trial.
A motion filed in court recently by the attorney for Marquez D. Thomas, 25, states that the identification made to two Youngstown police detectives was not conducted in the way Ohio law requires and was “unduly suggestive.”
Thomas and his sister, C’Mone Thomas, 22, are indicted on aggravated murder, murder and multiple counts of felonious assault in the Dec. 30, 2021, shooting death of Joseph Addison, 42, at an apartment complex on Tyrell Avenue on the West Side. Police said two men, 34 and 21, and a woman, 26, also were wounded at the complex that morning.
The filing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by attorney Lynn Maro states that two detectives met with the witness in the Mahoning County jail March 2. The witness said he did not personally know the people involved in the shootings but “knows them.” He said three people were involved, a female and two males, including one driving a Cadillac whose name he did not know.
Detective Jerry Fulmer then showed the witness two photos of people from surveillance video at the apartment complex on Tyrell Avenue on the West Side, and the witness said he recognized them.
Detective George Anderson “asserted that they had some better photographs of the people involved,” according to the filing.
Then Fulmer showed another photo and asked the witness if that was the female, and the witness said it was. Fuller then showed a facial photo of Thomas and asked the witness if he was the female’s brother with the Cadillac, and the witness said yes, he was the “brother who did the shooting,” the filing states.
A response from prosecutors to this defense motion had not been filed late last week.
Maro said the Innocence Project has said that mistaken eyewitness identifications have contributed to about 69 percent of the more than 375 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by DNA evidence used after the person’s conviction.
Founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project is now an independent nonprofit, its website states, adding: “Our work is guided by science and grounded in antiracism.”
The filing by Maro states that “the practice of showing a person a single suspect for purposes of identification, not part of a lineup, is generally condemned.”
“Recognizing the negative effects of showing one photograph and the likelihood of misidentification from suggestive procedures, the Ohio legislature adopted procedures to eliminate unreliable identifications,” Maro stated.
“In this case the police used none of the mandated procedures,” she stated, adding: “The practice of showing a witness a single suspect is contrary to” Ohio law. “An identification procedure is unduly suggestive if it ‘steers the witness to one suspect, independent of the witness’ honest recollection.'”
Under Ohio law, police agencies are required to adopt specific procedures for conducting identification “lineups,” and the procedure must include the use of a “blind administrator” or when that is “impracticable,” the administrator of the test must indicate in writing why that was impracticable.
A blind administrator is a person administering the identification who does not know the identity of the suspect and the use of a “folder” or similar system that uses 10 photographs, one being the suspect’s photo and allowing the witness to chose which photo they believe best matches the person they saw “without any oral or nonverbal cues as to whether they have accurately identified the suspect.”
There was no blind administrator in this case, the guidelines in Ohio law were not followed, and comments made by the police officers to the witness were “unduly suggestive,” Maro stated in the filing.
The witness gave the identification more than two months after the shootings. The witness also made remarks five times during the interview with detectives “about wanting the detectives to talk to the court, wanting them to help his (own criminal) case,” the filing states.