Miami judge vacates life sentence of Thomas Raynard James, man wrongfully convicted of murder because of mistaken identity in 1991

A pass judgement on in Miami on Wednesday vacated the existence sentence of a 55-year-old Black guy who prosecutors mentioned used to be wrongfully convicted on account of fallacious identification in 1991. CBS Miami reviews Thomas Raynard James is now a unfastened guy.

“I believe just right. Actual just right,” James mentioned Wednesday as he left a Miami court docket together with his lawyers and members of the family.

James used to be convicted in 1991 of the 1990 dying of Francis McKinnon, in large part at the identity by way of an eyewitness who advised jurors she watched him gun down her stepfather all the way through a theft in his Coconut Grove condominium.

Previous Wednesday, James, dressed in his pink jail uniform and shackles, stood in the back of his mom, Doris Robust, as Miami-Dade State Legal professional Katherine Fernandez Rundle detailed a 90-page movement her place of work filed inquiring for the conviction to be vacated.

Thomas Raynard James at a state lawyer’s place of work information convention on April 27, 2022. 

CBS Miami

“Mother, expectantly the courtroom will grant you the liberty you have been searching for for such a lot of years,” Fernandez Rundle advised Robust, who sobbed quietly right through the inside track convention.

James, who used to be 23 when he used to be convicted, used to be launched after forms used to be finished Wednesday.

During the last yr, Fernandez Rundle mentioned, individuals of her place of work’s Justice Undertaking poured over 20,000 pages of paperwork, reinterviewed witnesses, resubmitted fingerprints and retested DNA samples.

She mentioned the case has long gone thru a lot of appeals, post-conviction opinions, and opinions by way of a non-public investigator and the Innocence Undertaking of Florida Inc.

“None had been a success to find Mr. Thomas Raynard James blameless till we were given concerned,” Fernandez Rundle mentioned.

In a 90-page movement to vacate the conviction, prosecutors mentioned “what seems to be a possibility twist of fate that the defendant, Thomas Raynard James, had the similar identify as a suspect named by way of witnesses and nameless tipsters … resulted in the defendant’s {photograph} being integrated in a lineup, and set in movement a fallacious identification.”

Months later, James used to be arrested and charged with homicide.

On the trial, eyewitness Dorothy Walton advised jurors that she used to be certain that James, then 23, pulled the cause.

“I am sure of it. I can by no means put out of your mind his face,” she advised jurors in 1991.

Any other eyewitness who had recognized James within the photograph lineup testified that the individual he noticed that night time used to be now not within the court docket.

However Walton’s testimony used to be key to the jury’s verdict, as a result of there used to be no bodily proof tying any individual to the killing, Fernandez Rundle mentioned. Actually, fingerprints from the scene didn’t fit James.

However starting remaining fall, Walton mentioned she had some considerations about her testimony, Fernandez Rundle mentioned. She to start with refused to fulfill with prosecutors, however previous this month made touch and mentioned she now believes she made a mistake in figuring out James because the gunman.

Fernandez Rundle mentioned that over time there were conflicting tales about detectives complicated James with some other guy who shared his identify. However that guy were arrested and used to be in prison on the time of the taking pictures, she mentioned.

The person suspected of killing McKinnon died in 2020 in Las Vegas, the movement mentioned.

Natlie Figgers, who represents James, suggested folks to talk up once they see an injustice.

“It took a village to make this occur. It wasn’t a clean trip,” Figgers mentioned. “I need to prolong my gratitude to everybody that performed an element in bringing this consequence.”

 In keeping with the movement to vacate the conviction, there used to be a asked polygraph of James, CBS Miami reported.

James used to be requested 3 questions: 1. Had been you bodily there within the room when Francis McKinnon used to be shot? 2. Did you shoot Francis McKinnon? 3. Had been you concerned within the theft/homicide of Francis McKinnon by any means?

The state used to be urged James used to be fair and handed all 3 questions.

Earlier than the courtroom listening to, Fernandez Rundle mentioned she met with James’ protection crew, which used to be utterly devoted to proving his innocence.

“They by no means stopped believing in his innocence. For members of the family of Mr. James, for the following of family members for Francis Mckinnon, the sufferer, that is each an afternoon of pleasure and an afternoon of unhappiness. For the James circle of relatives, this has been an afternoon lengthy in coming,” mentioned Fernandez Rundle.

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