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After Spending Over 30 Years in Prison for a Murder Maryland Man Didn’t Commit, Judge Grants Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence

by Miles Dyson

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Charles Peters granted a petition for a writ of actual innocence, overturning the conviction of Anthony Hall, who had been serving a 50-year prison sentence for the 1991 murder of Gerard Dorsey. The decision came after new evidence surfaced, revealing significant flaws in the case against Hall.

The night of July 13, 1991, marked a tragic event that shook the community. Gerard Dorsey’s life was cut short when he was found shot in the back near the entrance to an alley connecting Brice Street with Payson Street in Baltimore. Two months later, Anthony Hall was charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun to commit a felony.

The trial took place on April 29, 1992, lasting less than two days. The prosecution called four witnesses, while the defense called none. Officer Bruce Button testified to finding Dorsey’s body, but no physical evidence linking Hall to the crime was discovered at the scene.

Sergeant Joseph Barrick, who had interviewed over two dozen individuals, testified that only two eyewitnesses could be identified: Nancy Hill and Gerald Patterson. Hill, a mother of five, recounted seeing Dorsey run past her with two men in pursuit. She described the men’s appearances and identified Hall as the man wearing a black hoody. Patterson, who was in a car at the time of the incident, also claimed to have seen Hall with a gun.

However, during the recent hearing on the petition, it was revealed that crucial information had been withheld from the defense. Police reports obtained by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (“MAIP”) exposed false testimony from Sergeant Barrick regarding the existence of additional eyewitnesses. Moreover, it became clear that Patterson had changed his statement after facing a heroin possession charge and had lied about knowing Hall from high school.

MAIP’s investigation also uncovered numerous exculpatory eyewitness statements that had been kept from the defense. Sylvester Manning, who was sitting nearby during the incident, described a taller gunman wearing different clothing than Hall. Vivian Williams, another witness, testified that Hall’s stature did not match that of the shooter, whom she had interacted with moments before the tragedy occurred. Tyrone Rice, whose interview was also withheld, mentioned two men approaching Dorsey but did not identify Hall.

The hearing featured expert testimony from Dr. Jennifer Dysart, an eyewitness identification expert, who raised concerns about the reliability of Hill’s identification. Patterson himself testified, revealing that he had signed a statement while under the influence of drugs and had been coerced by the police.

On March 15, 2023, Judge Charles Peters made the decision to grant the petition for a writ of actual innocence, acknowledging the new evidence presented and the flaws in Hall’s original trial. The judge vacated Hall’s conviction, opening the door for his release after spending over three decades in prison.

This case has shed light on the importance of thorough investigations, the duty of prosecutors to disclose all relevant evidence, and the significant role of innocence projects like MAIP in uncovering wrongful convictions. As Anthony Hall prepares to reclaim his freedom, the criminal justice system faces renewed scrutiny, and calls for reforms grow louder.

Source: The National Registry of Exonerations

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