Part 3: The Most Egregious Miscarriage of Justice You Have Never Heard About
THE “SPECIAL DUTIES” OF LAWYERS REPRESENTING THE GOVERNMENT
The Duty to Seek Justice
“The United States wins its point whenever justice is done its citizens in the courts”
Attorney General’s rotunda, United States Department of Justice building
“The United States Attorney is the representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation to govern impartially is as compelling as its obligation to govern at all; and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. As such, he is in a peculiar and very definite sense the servant of the law, the twofold aim of which is that guilt shall not escape or innocence suffer. He may prosecute with earnestness and vigor indeed, he should do so. But, while he may strike hard blows, he is not at liberty to strike foul ones.
It is as much his duty to refrain from improper methods calculated to produce a wrongful conviction as it is to use every legitimate means to bring about a just one.” —Berger v. U.5.,295 U.S. 78, 55 S.Cr. 629, 79 L”H. L3l4 (1935), excerpt
It’s amazing to me that one inscription and part of a case decided in 1935 convey such a powerful message that I’ll spend 11 pages trying to explain. If the lawyers in this case act as they should, Mike Crump will be free.
In the first two installments of this story (see Part 1 and Part 2), I explained the October 3, 1995, murder of Eric “Nike” Jones, and a bit about how the City of Roanoke, Virginia, arrested and convicted an innocent man, Mike Crump.
Mike was convicted of First Degree murder at a one day bench trial … with no jury … not a single piece of evidence … where the only witness is legally blind, perhaps coached by the RPD as evidenced by her still-changing statements.
Mike Crump is still in prison for that murder … and he is still innocent.
At this point, I am forced by decency to ask: Is there anyone in a position to help Mike Crump that will? Because if this can happen to Mike Crump, it can happen to you, too. Please consider that as you read this final chapter.
Aside from knowing in my heart and mind that Mike Crump is a victim of unbelievable injustice, there are a couple of legal issues that pushed me over the edge the first time I reviewed the case documents.
The first are the arrest warrants issued for Mike Crump. The warrant lists October 12, 1995, as the date of the murder. Eric Jones was killed on October 3, 1995. The warrants are wrong, yet during the preliminary hearing, when Crump’s lawyer mentioned this, THE JUDGE AMENDED THE USE OF A FIREARM CHARGE TO October 12, 1995. Even the Commonwealth’s Attorney was puzzled.
He asked, “Sorry your honor, I move to amend … the murder charge???”
The Judge replied: “Any other evidence?”
And nothing was ever done or said about the fact that the murder occurred on October 3 … not October 12. The warrants are wrong, yet Mike Crump is still in prison.
In addition, I’m sure there is a very important reason for this to be included in the Va. Code, but it doesn’t seem favorable to justice in this case. Justice … what a novel idea.
The Brief in Opposition to Crump’s direct appeal, the Commonwealth’s argument said:
“Unless the trial court’s decision is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it, the decision will be upheld. Va Code S 8.01-680…”
“I… For purposes of this review, the ‘facts’ are those which the trier of fact found to be true. This Court must disregard as untrue any evidence of Defendant in conflict with that of the Commonwealth…”
That code section says:
§ 8.01-680. When judgment of trial court not to be set aside unless plainly wrong, etc.
When a case, civil or criminal, is tried by a jury and a party objects to the judgment or action of the court in granting or refusing to grant a new trial on a motion to set aside the verdict of a jury on the ground that it is contrary to the evidence, or when a case is decided by a court without the intervention of a jury and a party objects to the decision on the ground that it is contrary to the evidence, the judgment of the trial court shall not be set aside unless it appears from the evidence that such judgment is plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.
Code 1950, § 8-491; 1977, c. 617.
I removed the citations, but the point is the same. The trial court was wrong and there was never any actual evidence. The code seems to favor jury decisions, as the weight of a verdict by 12 people should not be tossed away lightly, but a court’s decision is also included.
However, there wasn’t then (in 1995) … and there wouldn’t be now, 12 people who would convict Mike Crump for this crime. He wanted a jury. But he was 18 and I imagine his lawyer thought the Commonwealth could never meet their burden of proof.
It was a risk based on the most basic tenet that accused people are innocent until proven guilty. But the reality doesn’t square with the tenet in this case. The Commonwealth case was centered on Mike Crump from October 12, 1995, to the exclusion of several other possibilities, based solely on one woman’s ever-changing story, and there was no evidence.
In reality, most people think when the police arrest someone, they must have done it, or at least have evidence supporting the arrest, and we assume the police have investigated all suspects and followed up on all credible leads.
In this case, the RPD failed to uphold their oath … failed the public … failed Mike Crump … and failed Eric Nike Jones. This case has made me question everything I have ever believed in on the subject of criminal justice. I do not say that lightly. However….
There were SEVEN suspects within a week in this case, including a person Tina Trout named on 10/4 at 1:40 PM…who WAS NOT Mike Crump.
The DEA and ATF had alerted the RPD that there was very likely a “hitman” from New York in Roanoke. The hitman represented a drug cartel. Nike Jones’ brother was a crack dealer who had been arrested with a large bag of crack, $47,000.00 in a shoe box, a gun, and some marijuana. He stated he was willing to cooperate with investigators for a reduced sentence for both he and his brother, Nike. They were scheduled for trial on October 11, 1995, 8 days after Nike was murdered, and his brother was sentenced to the minimum time prescribed by law.
Tina’s sister had received a $66,000.00 insurance settlement and the money was in the house. In fact, Tina said (at one point) that the reason she was there was to counsel her sister on the best thing to do with the money. There was also a rash of home invasions during that time in Roanoke.
By March 6. Crump’s lawyer had told the court and the CA that he was using an alibi defense. There were alibi witnesses present at trial to testify on Crump’s behalf … and they were never called to testify by Crump’s lawyer.
– With my own ears, in 2020, I heard Tina Trout say that she was in the kitchen cutting strawberry cake when the shot was fired.
Several people have signed affidavits explaining Tina has admitted she didn’t see Mike Crump (or anyone else) and she made a mistake. Her father, and two of her sisters (who were also witnesses at the house) made statements in support of Mike Crump.
Tina Trout signed a petition on behalf of Mike Crump stating he is innocent
The alibi witnesses explain Mike Crump was in their presence.
If Crump has evidence in conflict with the Commonwealth, the appeals court must ignore it? That is such bullshit. It’s no wonder he’s still in prison. Now that is off my chest, I want to recap what we know of the murder itself.
The schematic below represents the interior of the house where the fatal shot was fired. A version of this (minus the red, green, yellow, and blue figures and lighting) was used during the trial.
Note: The intruder never actually got into the house. Only one side…a leg and one arm before shooting Nike Jones and running away. Most of the people in the house, including Tina, said that they thought Nike Jones was shot by accident, and the intruder was trying to point the gun towards the kitchen area.
Tina Trout- Green | “AJ” – Red | “WT” Yellow standing by Tina
Nike Jones – Blue | “AT” – Yellow sitting at table |“SB” – Yellow laying on loveseat
Around 1:00 AM on October 3, 1995, an intruder attempted to open the “stickie” screen door of the house. Nike Jones stood up and went to see who it was. Someone grabbed him by the arm, and after a short struggle, he broke loose and a shot was fired. Nike was hit in the chest and the shooter ran away.
Tina helped get Nike to the bedroom and called 911. She had been lying on the sofa (person in green) with her baby when the intruder approached the door. There is no way she could have seen the intruder with the 4-foot knee wall, and through Nike Jones who was sitting between the door and the sofa.
NOT ONE PERSON IN THE HOUSE SAW THE INTRUDER until NINE days later when Tina Trout magically proclaimed to know who it was. I copied a crime scene photo so I could show you the conditions, rather than just explain them.
This is a picture looking into the house. Note the 4-foot knee wall and the chair to the right. Nike Jones was sitting in that chair. Also note: You can’t see the sofa on the opposite wall.
The pictures above show a man standing in the doorway with the dining room light on. Even if they weren’t grainy, it wouldn’t be possible to ID someone who never got all the way into the house, AND with Nike Jones standing between the intruder and knee wall. Add to that the fact that Tina Trout has been collecting Social Security disability payments for quite some time because she suffers from Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome … she’s legally blind. Yet she was the only witness who testified at trial and identified Mike Crump, after she stated several times that she saw nothing.
There is a television show on Investigation Discovery called “Reasonable Doubt.” In season 3, Episode 3, “A Shot In The Dark,” they did the investigation that wasn’t done in 1995.
They found a witness who admits Mike Crump is innocent because he knows who actually shot Nike Jones. They also found a well known ophthalmologist who created a special pair of glasses to mimic Trout’s eye condition. Spoiler alert … she couldn’t have seen him with any certainty. The link provides different options to watch the show. If, at this point, you have even a question of Mike Crumps innocence, watch the show.
And just for those readers who want to understand the injustice in Trout’s changing story, I decided to copy the statements in chronological order that The Innocence Project lawyers put together before they began their investigation. I will supplement a few details that were not available at the time by making an ANDIS NOTE.
Tina Trout’s Statements to Police (in order):
10/3 -911 Call (immediately following incident)
“I think he’s a black male.”
“[W]e didn’t see nothing ’cause it was all dark.”
Q: “It was all dark?” A: “Yeah.”
Q: “[I]t was all dark?” A: “Yes we were in the living room and we were all talking and the door busted open and that man shot out.”
10/3 -Police Interview (morning after incident. 10:35 a.m.)
Trout was “three feet away” from Eric when he was shot.
The suspect got “about a foot” in the front door.
Trout “saw that he was wearing a dark colored black looking uh hooded jacket, a pair of black jeans and dark tennis shoes.”
“[W]e didn’t have much lights on because the baby was asleep … The only light was on was the one in the kitchen. And there was one little light on in the ceiling fan above him “
ANDIS NOTE: A different witness, “AJ,” stated the intruder was wearing a mask in the statement he gave to the RPD. In all of the other statements, the witnesses said it was dark and every witness, including Tina Trout, said they did not see who the intruder was.
Police show Trout (and her sisters) a photo spread. A photo of Crump is in the spread (the only person in the spread wearing a “hoodie”). Trout makes no identification.
ANDIS NOTE: Tina told the RPD she would come to the station twice and then never showed up. The RPD took the photo lineup to Nike’s house, in front of his mother, and none of the three girls could ID the intruder.
10/12 (copied from part 2 of this series)
After stating nine times during the 911 call and in her first statement the day of the murder, and after seeing the photo lineup the first time, she has no idea who the intruder was and that it was dark.But, she can now, nine days later, ID the murderer … but she had other things to do … so the RPD just let her leave. This visit was not recorded.
Three hours later, Tina returned to the RPD, and identified “the one on the top row in the middle” as the murderer of Eric “Nike” Jones. The photo lineup had six pictures in two rows of three. However, there was only one picture of a man wearing a black hoodie. Guess whose picture that was? Mike Crump.
Police interview Trout again and she gives another statement.
Trout’s description of Perp was “black male, medium brown skin, 5’10”, 6′, 160-180 lbs … wearing a black fitted sweatshirt that tied around his head .. [ with] a pair of black jeans, a pair of black and white and green detailed Nikes.” [This was after police showed her a photo of Crump when he was arrested.]
ANDIS NOTE: After she is shown pictures of Mike Crump and his clothes, and after the RPD spoke to her at least twice with NO RECORDING, she describes the intruder using general investigative terms?
Trout’s Testimony at the Preliminary Hearing – 12/12/95
Trout was approx/2 feet from Eric when the intruder came through the door.
Trout figured that the person coming through the door was a burglar, and she decided she needed to “take a description of the person.”
The first thing Trout allegedly noticed about the perpetrator were his tennis shoes. “They were black and white Nike’s with some green detailing in it. He had on a pair of black jeans and a black hooded shirt, with the hood pulled around his face.”
“All the lights were on in the living room.”
Trout claims , “I mean it was well lit, the house was well lit so.”
Trout was sitting on the couch in the living room when the intruder came to the door.
The next day at the convenience store, the man Tout alleges was Crump was wearing “the same as the night that Eric was killed. With the black hoody, the dark, the dark pants, and even the same tennis shoes.”
ANDIS NOTE: Mike Crump had a new pair of Reebok (NOT Nike) shoes he was wearing when arrested. Also, the distance from the sofa to the door is about 8 feet.
Tina’s testimony at Crump’s Bench Trial 3/12/1996
Perpetrator had on green, white, and black Nike tennis shoes – cross-trainers that were green and white with black detailing.
Trout could see his eyes and nose.
Perp had on a hooded sweatshirt that was dark green or a dark color.
Perp had on “dark colored long” “jogging pants or jeans.” (Trout claims she described them “to a T” back at the time of the incident, but that details are a little hazy now.)
Trout’s first description to police – not the 911 call, but the next afternoon, on 10/3 – was her best description (including of his shoes).
Trout believes the shoes were Nike because she saw the word “Nike” on them – somewhere on the top. The letters were in white and gold.
Trout claims the kitchen light was on, the light in the hall was on, and a lamp was on.
All Trout saw of Crump that day in the store were his eyes and nose. Trout did not notice Crump’s shoes in the store (contrary to what she testified at the prelim hearing); she only looked at his eyes.
Details in Trout’s account of what happened in the convenience store vary widely between her testimony on direct and her testimony on cross – and her testimony at the preliminary hearing.
Trout has trouble on cross remembering exactly what lights were on in the house at the time of the shooting. Her description of the lighting to police on 10/3 would be her best description.
ANDIS NOTE: If her 10/3 description is the most reliable, she didn’t see the intruder because it was dark and not possible from lying on the sofa. In addition, the intruder never made it into the house. Nike stopped him.
I am ending this story here, even though I could go on to book length. The Va. Code (below) didn’t exist in 1995 when Mike Crump was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit. Someone needs to see justice is done. I hope the Attorney General and Governor Northam are fans of my writing … or take just 10 minutes to read the transcripts … for the sake of justice.
§ 19.2-327.10:1. Petition for writ of actual innocence joined by Attorney General; release of prisoner; bond hearing.
The Attorney General may join in a petition for a writ of actual innocence made pursuant to § 19.2-327.10. When such petition is so joined, the petitioner may file a copy of the petition and attachments thereto and the Attorney General’s answer with the circuit court that entered the felony conviction or adjudication of delinquency and move the court for a hearing to consider release of the person on bail pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 19.2-119 et seq.). Upon hearing and for good cause shown, the court may order the person released from custody subject to the terms and conditions of bail so established, pending a ruling by the Court of Appeals on the writ under § 19.2-327.13.