At trial in 2000, Shannon Gholston identified an uncle-nephew duo as the shooters who left him paralyzed. Those men, DeShawn and Marvin Reed of Ecorse, were convicted and sentenced to 20 years.
But on videotape in 2005, Gholston told a private investigator hired by the Reeds' family that the two men didn't shoot him. Months later, Gholston changed that story and told a Wayne County Prosecutor's investigator it was the Reeds. Then, last month, he told the prosecutor's investigator that he didn't know who shot him, according to court filings from the prosecutor.
Now attorneys for the two men say they're getting closer to having Gholston give sworn testimony in Wayne County Circuit Court as part of the Reeds' attempt to win their freedom. They contend Gholston's recantation of his trial testimony and ballistics evidence tying another man to the gun used in the shooting proves their innocence. The gun hadn't been located before the Reeds' trial, and that crucial piece of evidence wasn't included in the Reeds' earlier appeals of their 2001 convictions. (See "In the Blink of an Eye," June 4, 2008.)
On Jan. 9, Wayne County Circuit Judge Edward Ewell ordered an evidentiary hearing on the Reeds' request. That hearing will include Gholston's testimony because Wayne County prosecutors want Gholston to declare under oaththat the Reeds didn't shoot him, says David Moran, a clinical professor at the University of Michigan Law School's Innocence Clinic who represents the Reeds.
"The good news is that we have an order, that we're going to actually have an evidentiary hearing," Moran says.
The prosecutor's office would not comment on Gholston's involvement, what he told an investigator, or why he changed his story.
"Anything regarding issues concerning Mr. Gholston will be argued in court on the record at the appropriate time," spokeswoman Maria Miller says. "We have no comment on the Gholston matter and will not attempt to litigate this case in the press."
It has been a bizarre case from the outset.
In a bench trial in 2001, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway convicted the Reeds based on Gholston's testimony. Other witnesses at trial identified a man named Tyrone Allen as the real shooter.
Between the verdict and the sentencing, the Reeds' then-attorneys — different lawyers than those who represented them at trial — followed up on some of the case's loose ends.
The biggest loose end was Allen, who was shot and killed by Detroit police between the time Gholston was shot in March 2000 and the Reeds' trial in 2001. Two guns were found on Allen. The Reeds' then-attorneys sent them for ballistics testing.
Hathaway refused to delay sentencing until the ballistics report came back. Ten days after sentencing, the Michigan State Police lab reported one of the guns found on Allen was a match to the bullet pulled out of the back of Gholston's neck.
The Reeds appealed their convictions but their attorneys did not include the ballistics information. Moran now is arguing that was "ineffective assistance of counsel," which can be grounds for new trials.
In addition, Moran argues that Gholston's recantation is newly discovered evidence that should be considered. The statute of limitations for perjury — six years by Michigan law — has passed, Moran points out.
A Jan. 16 hearing is set before Judge Hathaway, but Moran will ask he recuse himself. "The problem is that he's made a series of comments about the case that indicate that he's prejudged various aspects of it at various times," Moran says.
Hathaway told News Hits he likely would agree. "I think it will be better for fresh eyes to look at it, and that's probably what I'll say," he says.
In June, Hathaway told Metro Times he didn't know the details of Gholston's changing stories. "His testimony made the case," Hathaway said last year. "He said he saw who did it, and it was the Reeds."
Hathaway also said he wondered why Gholston had changed his story. "It wouldn't surprise me if the Reeds through siblings or intermediaries in the community had put an enormous amount of pressure on the victim to recant. That's not unheard of," he said. "Now that the victim has recanted and recanted and recanted again, who knows where he's coming from. That's a tough call.
"I guess anything is possible."News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]