James Richardson, a black male, was capitally tried and convicted of the first-degree murders of Landon Blackley and Andrew Kirby, both white males, at the March 2011 session of the Superior Court of Pitt County. As soon as the jury returned guilty verdicts, the State elected not to proceed with the death penalty, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Since James’ peaceful arrest, he has maintained his innocence. Investigations conducted by post-conviction counsel have confirmed James’ innocence and uncovered egregious official misconduct from both the Greenville Police Department and the Prosecuting District Attorney’s office. In short, the investigation and trial were plagued with misconduct and racial discrimination. James is currently sentence to die in prison for a crime he did not commit.
James Richardson has lost over a decade of his freedom and despite injustices he has faced, he has been a model inmate throughout the 12 years of his incarceration. Prior to his arrest and conviction, he was a star high school basketball player at J.H. Rose High School, and went on to play in college and professionally. He mentored children of all ages and walks of life and has been able to translate that passion to positively impact the lives of inmates he is in contact with. He has maintained the same integrity even after his wrongful conviction and has made an impact even on the prison administration.
Landon Blackley and Andrew Kirby were shot and killed as they left The Other Place night club at 2:07 a.m., on June 30th, 2009, in Greenville, NC. Just before the shooting, club bouncers escorted James Richardson and others out of the club due to a verbal dispute that occurred near the bar. Once everyone was escorted out of the club at closing time, about fifty bouncers and patrons were involved in a fight outside of the club Minutes later, a white BMW drove past the club, and an occupant opened fire into the crowd, killing the two men.
With absolutely no physical or eyewitnesses evidence linking James to the crime, the State rested on the theory that there was one person (the shooter) in a “white” BMW and while in the drivers seat, the shooter extended their arm 6-8 inches out of the passenger’s side window and shot two innocent bystanders. The state fabricated the motive that James Richardson committed the shooting in retaliation against club bouncers and patrons involved in the fight.
Issues that Led to Mr. Richardson's Wrongful Conviction:
Interracial homicides involving white victims, Perjury, Police and Prosecutorial misconduct, Junk science, Racial animus during jury deliberations, eyewitness / cross-racial misidentification, fabricated and tainted evidence, confidential informants, and withheld evidence from the prosecution.
Witnesses interviewed immediately after the shooting stated they saw a tall dark skin African American male in blue jeans and a white t-shirt get into a white BMW and retrieve a gun from the trunk. Witnesses also stated they saw more than one person in the vehicle as it passed the nightclub. Further, multiple witnesses stated they saw the shooter hanging out of the back-passenger window of the White BMW and provided descriptions of suspects that do not match Mr. Richardson’s physical characteristics or clothing. Uncontroverted State witness testimony established that James is a light skin black male wearing a white t-shirt, basketball shorts, and socks with basketball slides the night of the shooting. Mr. Richardson left the club in a gold Cadillac and was never seen in or around the white BMW at the time of the shooting. Three lineups were presented to eyewitnesses and not one witnesses identified Mr. Richardson as the shooter. Police had no positive leads as to the identity of the shooter(s) until a GPD career-information and suspect in the homicide provided a self-serving
statement against James in order to get rid of unrelated pending drug charges as well as eliminate himself as a person of interest. After this specious statement, all eyes turned to Mr. Richardson and the GPD and Prosecution began tailoring their case to convict and frame an innocent man.
Police Misconduct – Lead Detective Connie Elks
Compelling evidence shows GPD Detective Elks tailored and engaged in smokescreen discovery tactics, ignored and disregarded critical eyewitnesses, and spoiled key exculpatory evidence that would have led to the real suspects. Specifically, surveillance footage of the white BMW fleeing the scene and audio recorded suspect and witness interviews.
The state tendered false testimony and manipulated digital photos into evidence to convince the jury that the accused was the shooter and the lone occupant and driver of the BMW. They presented tainted video footage that was enhanced to specifically highlight the driver and, unbeknownst to trial counsel, the other passengers became nearly imperceptible. Post-conviction counsel located original photos taken at the same time as the spoiled video, and upon enhancement,
discovered, there were four individuals in the vehicle. None of the individuals in the vehicle resemble James, however, they do match descriptions provided by witnesses of other patrons at and around the club the night of the shooting. Curiously, the individuals seen in the enhanced images match the identities of suspects included in the other two lineups presented to witnesses and were selected by eyewitnesses.
The prosecutions star witness and Assistant DA, Kimberly Robbs children’s soccer coach, Vidal Thorpe, came forward seven days before trial and almost two years after the shooting, claiming to have seen James as the shooter firing from the white BMW. He was the only witness to testify and make a positive identification of James as the shooter. In a post conviction interview, Vidal Thorpe, admitted that he did not see the shooter and was not sure why he was asked to testify.
Claiming “the Judge gave him the run-around”.
Racial Animus and Trial Court Misconduct:
Lamuel Anderson, the only black male and holdout juror made a request to the Judge to be removed from the jury due to the racial hostility he faced during the three days of deliberations. Although the Judge was aware that Mr. Anderson was the only holdout, he ignored his request and promptly rebuked the jury for “not fulfilling their duty to return a unanimous verdict”. The following morning, Mr. Anderson relented to unyielding pressure and racial intimidation although he was
not convinced beyond a reason doubt of James’ guilt. But for the pressure from the Court, juror Anderson would have not have caved.
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