A man serving life in prison for a 2004 murder got the rare chance on Tuesday to argue in court for his exoneration.
A jury convicted Marvin Haynes, 35, of fatally shooting flower shop owner Harry “Randy” Sherer, 55, during a robbery in north Minneapolis.
Haynes was 16 at the time. Great North Innocence Project attorneys argue that Minneapolis police misled witnesses with suggestive lineup techniques. Several have since recanted their testimony.
Hennepin County Judge William Koch granted Haynes an evidentiary hearing, which began on Monday.
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Koch listened as Haynes, wearing an orange jumpsuit, answered a series of questions from defense attorney Andrew Markquart.
“Marvin, did you murder Harry Sherer?” Markquart asked.
“No,” Haynes replied.
“Were you at Jerry‘s Flower Shop at any point on May 16, 2004?”
“No I was not.”
In legal filings, Markquart noted that the only eyewitness to the shooting was Sherer’s sister, Cynthia McDermid, who was working with him in the flower shop that day.
McDermid, who died in 2020, described the shooter as a Black male who weighed about 180 pounds and had short cropped hair.
At the time, Haynes was much smaller, about 130 pounds, and wore his hair in a long Afro style. McDermid identified him after police presented her with three photo lineups and a live lineup. She later identified Haynes at trial “despite indicating doubt during her initial identifications,” Markquart wrote.
The defense also argues that a then 14-year-old witness, Ravi Seely, who said he saw a person run from the flower shop “expressed uncertainty” about the same lineup procedure.
More testimony is expected when the hearing resumes Dec. 20.
After her brother testified, Marvina Haynes told reporters that she remains cautiously optimistic.
“It kind of feels like we're one step closer, but we just don't know because the same people who put my brother there wrongfully are the same folks who have to make this decision to let him out.”
Hennepin County prosecutors argue that Haynes has failed to establish “by a fair preponderance of the evidence” that a court should overturn his conviction. Haynes lost an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2007.