Trial By Color

Minnesota courts tighten rules against race-based appeals, but it's small consolation to Dameion Robinson

The ultimate irony, of course, is that whether the court in fact changed its viewpoint and if so, why, the answer probably doesn't matter much to Dameion Robinson. "His case is closed as far as this issue and the Minnesota courts," laments Cromett. "It's been raised and decided."

¬ Alonzo Ferguson is the other man who won a new trial that day. He was convicted of the 1994 killing of a young man visiting from Chicago, Allen Wheatley, Jr. The south Minneapolis shooting went unsolved for more than a year until what one of Ferguson's attorneys describes as "the fortuitous appearance of Johnny Edwards." Edwards, then unknown to police except as a gangbanger who had lost a leg in a 1993 drive-by shooting, was in jail on charges of armed robbery when he dropped his first dime. Edwards called Minneapolis police and offered to testify in a series of high-profile gang cases.

Eventually, Edwards's statements resulted in the filing of charges in eight cases. But his testimony secured just four convictions, two of which have now been overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court. One of the remaining cases is the attempted murder conviction of Alonzo Ferguson's older brother, Reggie Ferguson, who completed his sentence several years ago. The other conviction that has stood is Dameion Robinson's.

Ernest A Bryant

Last November, Edwards's father told a Hennepin County District Court judge that his son had confessed to him that he lied at Ferguson's trial ("He's Sorry," December 4, 2002). And last month, Judge Phillip Bush ruled that the informant had quite possibly made up his testimony against Ferguson. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office plans to retry the case as soon as possible.

Whether Edwards regretted his stories in any of the other cases remains a mystery, though, possibly because his father hired him an attorney. "He was scared of what the police and prosecutors would say," his father explained to Bush. "What he's worried about is, there's a felony charge that goes with recanting."

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