Last week Shawn Giovanni Massey filed a lawsuit in Federal Court after spending 12 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit.
Massey on the right in 2010.
Massey was released from the Maury Correctional Institution last year after former Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist secured a Superior Court order vacating Massey's conviction on multiple counts of second-degree kidnapping, as well as one count each of felonious breaking and entering and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Massey's federal lawsuit alleges that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers fabricated a witness statement saying Massey wore his hair in cornrows on the night of the attack. The victim had described her attacker as wearing the distinctive braids.
Massey was freed after a group of Duke University law students researched his case and compiled years of photos showing he always wore closely cropped hair, including a jail mug shot taken just 11 weeks before the crime.
The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $10,000.
A copy of the lawsuit is here.
More profound is the case file and summary from Duke Law School which is here.
The short version is that Massey who was no stranger to CMPD was a prime suspect in the crime but cultural differences, and an overbearing assistant district attorney pushed the case along even though there was substantial doubt that the perp was really Massey.
CMPD detectives failed on several occasions to explore other suspects, or follow additional leads, instead focusing on building a case against Massey.
In the end Massey could not have been the perp based on the victims identification because his hair was too short for cornrows.
Cedar's Take: Officers did their part, but the system failed when in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary officers and the Mecklenburg DA's office pressed on with the case. What seems lost is that justice is not a conviction, justice is the truth. In this case the truth is Massey was not guilty of these crimes. Those that stand in the way of the truth also stand in the way of justice.