Joe Swanigan was shot and killed on March 23, 2000 outside of the “Lothrop House” a home located at 3242 Lothrop Street in Detroit. Norman Allen was convicted at a bench trial for Swanigan’s murder.
After an extensive investigation, the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic have obtained several Affidavits from persons who were at Lothrop House who have sworn that Norman Allen was not involved in the murder. None of the new evidence has previously been presented in court, and Mr Allen has not yet filed a 6500 motion based on this evidence.
At the time of the murder, Allen was renting out the basement at Lothrop House from Alma and Kenneth Morrow, an elderly couple who resided in the house with their teenage daughter, Kenyatta. Allen sold drugs from the porch of Lothrop House and from a motel around the corner. The Lothrop House was also used as a hang out spot by Allen and his friends. As was typical there were multiple people present at the Lothrop House on the night of the murder.
The shooting occurred because Marla Reed (now Wells), stole a truck from a man named Willie Perry, whose sexual advances she had rebuffed earlier in the evening while hanging out on Bell Isle. Joe Swanigan, Perry’s friend, agreed to help Perry find his stolen truck after Marla and her girlfriends stole his keys on Bell Isle. Perry, Swanigan and possibly 3-4 other men tracked Marla to the Lothrop House and confronted her and her friends on the porch. This led to a melee on the porch that spilled onto the front yard, and quickly escalated into the fatal shooting of Swanigan.
When Perry arrived at the house, he saw a man (“Man #1”) sitting on the porch. He asked Man #1 where Marla was, referring to her by physical description. During that discussion, Marla Reed exited the house with her friends Sallie Jackson, Deon Harris and Kenyatta Morrow. Perry accosted Reed and apparently threw her against the house while demanding she return his keys. Reed and her friends fought back, attacking Perry, who grabbed Reed by her hair and dragged her off the porch. A second man (“Man #2”; Perry made clear this was not Man #1), then exited the house and punched Perry in the face, knocking off his glasses. There was a struggle, during which Perry was knocked to the ground. Eventually someone yelled for someone to get a gun. Man #2 went back into the house and returned to the front porch with a long gun. He yelled “Whats up?” and fired twice into the air. Perry and Swanigan then separated, but Perry heard Swanigan tell someone that “It doesn’t have to be this way, we just wanted my friend’s keys back”. Perry then heard someone with the same voice as Man #2 saying “That’s all you want?” and then heard more shots. He then found Swanigan dying of a gun shot wound to the chest.
EVIDENCE AT TRIAL
Physical evidence included 5 spent .30 carbine shells found on the porch, and an empty box of .30 carbine shells found in the basement of the Lothrop House, which in addition to being Allen’s room, was used as a common hang-out and entertainment area. Ballistics report indicated that Swanigan was killed by a .30 carbine bullet. Allen originally told police he had not been home at the time of the shooting. Soon after, however, he admitted to being at the scene and explained he was inside the house when the shots were fired. He testified at trial and again explained that he was inside the house, when the shots were fired outside.
The Prosecution called 12 witnesses. Five of whom claim to have been present at Lothrop House during the shooting. Four of those five, testified they were subjected to abusive behaviour by the Detroit Police. Those four coerced witnesses – Kenyatta Morrow, Rosie Walker, Gregory Patrick and Sallie Jackson – testified they were forced to sign statements implicating Allen in the murder. Kenyatta Morrow’s allegations that the police arrested her without probable cause and threatened to charge her with murder, led to a separate civil suit based which resulted in an out of court settlement. Further allegations about police misconduct, which came out during testimony, during Allen’s trial included threats of incarceration, slapping witnesses, hitting pressure points and bending witnesses fingers back during interrogations.
At trial, the Prosecution used these police statements to impeach three of the witnesses and to bolster the testimony of the fourth. While Morrow, Walker and Patrick all gave initial statements implicating Allen, they recanted at Trial and testified they only implicated him because they were coerced by Officers. They each ultimately said they did not see the shooter or see anyone exit the house with a gun. Kenyatta Morrow whose testimony is inconsistent, partially recanted and wound up not really helping either side. Rose Walker’s testimony exculpated Allen. At trial she testified that while both she and Allen were outside when the fight started, she was inside the house with him, by the time shots were fired. Finally, Gregory Patrick testified that he was at the house earlier in the day but had left by the time the fight occurred. He testified that he had only signed the statement so that the police would stop torturing him.
Sallie Jackson, who was a close friend of Marla Reed was the fourth coerced witness who testified at trial. Jackson stuck by her second police statement at trial, which implicated Norman Allen. However, she explained that her police statement was the product of 8 hours in custody, physical abuse and threats.
The final witness who was present at the time of the shooting was Willie Perry, Joe Swanigan’s friend, who identified the shooter (Man #2 above), as Norman Allen during a line up. It is important to note that Perry’s glasses were knocked off during the scuffle leading up to the shooting.
On January 18, 2001 Judge Maggie Drake found Allen guilty of murder in the second degree, possession of a firearm by a felon and felony firearm.
Norman Allen #213108
Lakeland Correctional Institution
141 First Street
Coldwater, MICHIGAN 49036
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Michigan Innocence Clinic believes Willie Perry misidentified Norman Allen as Man #2, when Allen was in fact Man #1 (the man who was on the porch when Perry and Swanigan first arrived at Lothrop House).
At trial, Allen testified that he was sitting on the porch when Perry arrived at Lothrop House, thus making him Man #1 (the first man Perry encountered). Allen assumed Perry was a potential drug customer, asked him what he needed, and became puzzled when Perry started talking about a “light-skinned bitch” who stole his truck. Allen told us he retreated inside after the woman came out, and the situation began to get heated. Once the fight started Man #2 – exited the house, punched Perry in the face, retrieved the gun, and ultimately shot Swanigan. There are many reasons to credit this theory.
· Perry’s identification of Allen as Man #2 was flawed
o Perry did not have a good opportunity to view Man #2 at the scene;
o Perry saw Man #1 briefly outside, at night and on a darkened porch, and he saw both Man #1 and Man #2 only very briefly;
o Perry was punched in the face before Man #2 came on the porch. He was punched so hard in the eye that he hit his head on concrete and his glasses were knocked off;
o Throughout the encounter was Man #2, Perry was being beaten and spent much of the time on the ground
· Numerous eye-witnesses have since exculpated Norman Allen
EVIDENCE DISCOVERED SINCE TRIAL
Michael Boyd provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen. He was asked to take a polygraph exam, and passed, giving credence to his Affidavit.
Carlton Carter (“Squeak”)
Carlton Carter testified at trial and did not implicate Norman Allen. On direct, Carter described a conversation with Officer Thomas where Thomas said “I know Note (Norman Allen’s nickname) didn’t do it, but somebody got to go down for it”. Thomas was subpoenaed and denied having this conversation with Carter, or even having doubts about Norman’s guilt. Carlton Carter also provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen.
Spoke with Norman Allen’s attorney before trial, but was not called to testify. Marcus Davis also provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen.
Was never contacted by Detroit Police Department or Norman Allen’s trial or appellate attorneys. Raphael Bradley also provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen.
Was never contacted by Detroit Police Department or Norman Allen’s trial attorney. Christopher Moore also provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen.
Takeia Danye Sanford
Dated Norman Allen for a brief period, but was not present at the night of the shooting. Takeia Sanford also provided an Affidavit affirming the innocence of Norman Allen.
POSSIBLE LEADS STILL TO PURSUE
Rosie Lee Walker and Sallie Jackson
Rosie Lee Walker and Sallie Jackson provided Affidavits in support of the innocence of Norman Allen, as well as detailing the conditions in which their Statements were given to Detroit Police. Sallie Jackson was assaulted repeatedly by the Officer taking her Statement, until she agreed to sign the Statement the Officer wanted signed (Ms Jackson had already given two Statements up to that point, and neither Statement implicated Norman Allen). Sallie Jackson suffered the same treatment in a completely separate murder case, when a man named Diarre Hamilton was convicted. The same Officer took her Statement in that case as well, Officer Donald Hughes.
Gregory Dequan Patrick (PDQ)
Mr Patrick originally was picked up by the police and taken to the station after both Sallie Jackson and Rosie Lee Walker told police that he was at the house the night of the shooting. In his statement to the police, he implicated Norman Allen. However, he recanted at trial. At trial, he testified that he was not at the house during the shooting (a fact that was confirmed by Sallie Jackson), and that he was coerced by police to sign his statement.
· The Michigan Innocence Clinic last made contact with Patrick on 01.23.2017, and he indicated his willingness to sign an Affidavit that he was not at the house and he gave his statement under duress.
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