Conviction: 1996, Charges Dismissed: 1999
Cousin was convicted of the 1995 murder of Michael Gerardi who
was killed while leaving a New Orleans restaurant with his
girlfriend, Connie Babin. During police questioning, Connie
twice denied being able to identify the murderer as it was dark
and she did not have her glasses or contacts lenses. On the
night of the murder she described the killer as shorter than
Gerardi. Shareef was 4“ taller. In court, however, she was “100%
certain it was Shareef”. Her previous doubts, though recorded on
tape, were not shared with the jury.
On the night
of the murder, Shareef had been playing in a basketball match. A
video recording of the game included a wall clock showing he was
at the game at the time of the murder. Three team-mates came to
court to confirm this but were sent to wait in a separate room.
The defence were unable to find them and they missed their
opportunity to testify. The video tape was never shown in court
and Shareef was found guilty and sentenced to death.
after four years on death row, the courts finally overturned his
conviction because of improperly withheld evidence by the state.
When I met
Shareef in 2007, he led me through the streets of Atlanta to a
slightly shabby building in a deserted backstreet. This was his
new place of work “The Southern Centre for Human Rights”, where
he worked assisting families of other death row prisoners. We
walked through dimly lit corridors lined with photos. Shareef
pointed out the photo of a young Clive Stafford Smith who had
been instrumental in gaining him his freedom. At his desk he
proudly showed me his certificate of acceptance at the
prestigious Morehouse College for African Americans where he was
returning to his studies after having been, at 16, the youngest
person to be sent to Louisiana’s death row.
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