Photo courtesy of Olivia Grey Pritchard

Exonerated: May 27, 2016

In 1993, Jerome Morgan was wrongly arrested at age 17 and prosecuted for the murder of Clarence Landry, III at a sweet sixteen birthday party at a New Orleans hotel. A fight broke out, shots were fired and three teens were hit—two survived, but 16-year-old Clarence Landry died on the scene. By all accounts, the gunman fled the ballroom immediately and was chased down the street to an alley where he jumped over a fence. When the police arrived, they sealed the room and detectives took down the names of everyone in the room, including Mr. Morgan.

Mr. Morgan was prosecuted based upon the identification of two teenaged witnesses, one of whom had previously told the police it was definitely not Mr. Morgan. Post-conviction investigation by IPNO revealed that the prosecutors had in their file a complaint history that proved that it took police a mere six minutes to arrive after the shooting, not 30 to 45 minutes as the jury heard. This made the already questionable theory that the gunman—after successfully fleeing from the crime scene, returned to a room of over 80 witnesses, even less likely—there simply was not enough time for the gunman to flee, run down the street, jump over a fence, hide the gun, and return to the scene of the crime unnoticed before the police arrived and sealed the room. In 2013, the teenaged witnesses admitted that the detectives had told them to name Mr. Morgan.

Based on both the discovery of the complaint history and the two witnesses recantation, on January 17, 2014, Jerome Morgan’s murder conviction was overturned. Two weeks later he walked out of prison after spending 20 years incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit and was granted a new trial.

For two more years, IPNO fought to clear his name while the DA first fought the ruling overturning his conviction, and when unsuccessful, fought to re-prosecute Mr. Morgan in spite of the clear evidence of his innocence. On May 27, 2016, the DA dismissed the charges against Mr. Morgan, and he was finally exonerated.