In March of 2011, Shawn D. Gardner was convicted by a jury of second-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of 20-year-old Lennon Johnson Jr. outside a Flint nightclub. Gardner was also found guilty on charges of felony firearms and felon in possession of firearms. On April 17, Gardner’s conviction was reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals on grounds that Gardner had ineffective counsel in his 2011 trial.
Gardner, who is believed to be a member of an alleged gang known as the “Howard Boys,” was serving 80 to 120 years in prison for Johnson’s murder. The gang, according to a news article at Mlive.com, had been formed in 2002; members allegedly used violence to control a territorial drug operation.
In January of this year Gardner was charged with two other murders related to incidents from 2004 and 2009. He was also charged with three counts of assault with intent to murder in connection with three shootings that occurred in 2004 and 2009.
In the murder of Lennon Johnson Jr., Gardner allegedly fired an assault rifle during a car chase involving the victim, who was struck in the head while inside his vehicle. His car then entered an intersection and was struck by oncoming traffic.
The appeals court found that Mark Clement, Gardner’s attorney in the 2011 trial, failed to object to polygraph evidence taken from a witness who pinned Ricco Holmes for the murder. Holmes was with Gardner at the nightclub the night of the murder, and the two men followed the victim out of the club.
Clement said there was nothing he could have done, and that had he requested a mistrial it would have either forced a new trial, or shone attention on the significance of the polygraph. Clement blames the error on prosecutors for asking about the results of the polygraph. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton told reporters that he intends to retry the case.
Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know that while it is not true in every case, there are times when mistakes are made in the legal justice system, or innocent people find themselves in a prison cell. The appellate court makes it possible in some cases for individuals to have a second chance in presenting their case, whether you feel you have been sentenced unfairly, or even wrongfully convicted.
It is essential that you consult with a capable and experienced Michigan murder appeals and post-conviction lawyer if you have been wrongly convicted or feel that your legal counsel was inadequate or ineffective. Don’t assume that you have reached a dead end; there may be other options.