BALTIMORE, Md. (WJZ) -- A Baltimore man was freed Wednesday after spending nearly 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said.
David Morris was sentenced to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended after he was convicted in the 2004 murder of Mustafa Carter. In 2018, the State's Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit took a closer look at the case in response to concerns from the Innocence Project. The CIU's review found exculpatory evidence was discovered before Morris' trial but never disclosed.
In a statement, Mosby said Morris' case is an example of the "deeply damaging nature of the historical failures of the criminal justice system" and her agency's obligation to right previous wrongs.
"On behalf of the State, let me extend my sincerest apologies to Mr. Morris and his family for the unspeakable trauma inflicted upon him as a result of this wrongful conviction," Mosby said. "To the family of Mr. Carter, we will continue to use everything our arsenal to find your son's killers."
According to the State's Attorney's Office, investigators identified another suspect in the case, but that information wasn't provided to Morris' defense. Several other factors – including DNA evidence taken from Carter's pants that would have ruled out Morris as a suspect and contradictory information from the sole witness – indicated "Morris was not involved," the agency said in part.
Besides the evidence, the CIU review determined the arresting officer had been accused of misconduct, which Mosby's office said should have been disclosed to Morris' defense attorneys. The officer, Michael Nelson, was among those published in Mosby's "Do Not Call" list of officers with credibility issues.
Michele Nethercott, an attorney for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the former director of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, said the organization was gratified with the outcome.
"The evidence at (Morris') trial was incredibly weak and our post-conviction investigation unearthed even more evidence supporting his longstanding claim of innocence," Nethercott said. "We're grateful to Mr. Carter's family for assisting in the investigation despite the pain it must have caused."
In 2015, Mosby overhauled the CIU, Maryland's first such unit, tasking prosecutors with looking into claims of actual innocence and wrongful convictions. Since then, the CIU has exonerated a total of 11 individuals who served a combined 280 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
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