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Analysis of Jermaine Stansberry’s Conviction for the Murder of Brandon Hall

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Jermaine Stansberry in his cell at the Stillwater state prison

Personal statement by William McGaughey:

Jermaine Stansberry was the boy friend of my second wife’s oldest daughter, Lena Morrison, and also the father of Lena’s two sons. I believe he was dealing drugs but, based on evidence presented at trial, do not believe he killed anyone. Jermaine sat in jail for a year until trial. At the last minute, he asked me for money to hire a lawyer but I was unable to help him. I did write letters, however, to both the judge and the prosecuting attorney asking that the trial be postponed because the defendant had never been interrogated by the police. My appeals were ignored.

The public prosecutor was the Hennepin County Attorney, Amy Klobuchar, who later became a U.S. Senator from Minnesota. Besides this, the case is interesting because the prosecutor pursued charges against Stansberry despite the fact that DNA analysis exonerated him but did not exonerate another man, Raymond Hardimon, who was seated in a van next to where the murder weapon was found on the pavement. The trial prosecutor successfully convinced a jury that Stansberry had tossed this gun over a concrete wall and parked car from a position 50 fifty feet away so that it landed neatly next to the van. Although it was 1 a.m. and dark, an eyewitness across the street, who later recanted her testimony, said she had seen Stansberry engage in a “throwing motion”. Neither Hardimon (given a plea bargain by the prosecutor) nor Lee Cain, Hardimon’s companion on the fateful night, were called to the stand to testify during Stansberry’s trial.

Case summary

Jermaine Stansberry was convicted of the murder of Brandon Hall in the Hennepin County district court.  I believe that the evidence points to Stansberry’s innocence on that charge.  A friend of his, Raymond Hardimon, actually did the shooting.

Stansberry, Hardimon, and others were involved in a brawl in the warehouse district of Minneapolis in which a University of Minnesota football player, Damian Haye, was assaulted and robbed.  Some of Haye’s fellow players were summoned to his aid.  In the early morning of September 1, 2002, one of those players, Brandon Hall, was shot and killed near Third Street North and Hennepin Avenue.  Three suspects were arrested:  Jermaine Octavious Stansberry, Raymond Hardimon, and Lee Earl Cain.  

Cain and Hardimon were arrested in a parking lot behind an MPHA apartment building located at 314 Hennepin Avenue as they attempted to flee the area in a white Dodge mini-van.  Stansberry was arrested on the sidewalk near the same parking lot as he walked along Third Street.  The murder weapon was found on the pavement of the parking lot near a door on the passenger’s side of the mini-van.

Forensic evidence related to the gun

The Minneapolis police department declined to do a swab for gunpowder residue on any of the suspects declaring that such tests were unreliable.

The crime lab did test for a sample of DNA on the gun itself.  According to its report, the DNA sample included a mixture from several individuals.  “Raymond Hardimon cannot be excluded as a contributor to this DNA mixture.  Jermaine Octavious Stansberry, Lee Earl Cain, Brandon D. Hall and Damian Jamal Haye can be excluded as contributors to this DNA mixture.” In other words, the lab tests said that Stansberry, convicted of the shooting, had not left a DNA sample on the gun whereas Hardimon might have.

Why was Stansberry convicted?

Prosecutor Robt. Streitz of the Hennepin County Attorney’s office stressed several points in his closing arguments.  The three most important, in my opinion, were the following:

1. Five eyewitnesses testified that they had seen Jermaine Stansberry shoot Brandon Hall.  Furthermore, a witness testified that he had heard Stansberry threaten to use a gun during the brawl that had occurred earlier in the evening.

2. The prosecution had to overcome the damaging fact that the murder weapon was found on the parking-lot pavement outside the door of the mini-van in which Lee Cain and Raymond Hardimon were arrested.  Hardimon was on the side of the van - the passenger’s side - where the gun was found.  Two Minneapolis police officers, Sgt. Duane Walker and Kelvin Pulphus were standing near the mini-van when the gun was, in Pulphus’ words, “dropped”.   In fact, a statement from officer T.R. Krebs of the Homicide Unit made shortly after the arrest reads:  “The gun believed to be used in the shooting was recovered from Hardimon’s possession as he and Cain attempted to enter a motor vehicle and flee within seconds after the shooting and at a distance from the victim of less than half a block.”  Jermaine Stansberry, when arrested, was not in the parking lot but on the sidewalk on the south side of Third Street North.  He was walking westward at a leisurely pace.

The prosecution managed to convince the jury that Stansberry had done the shooting and then tossed the gun so that it would land on the pavement right next to the mini-van used by Hardimon and Cain.  The sole evidence for this theory was offered by a young woman named Brandy Commodore who was standing across Third Street.  She testified that she had seen Stansberry engage in a “throwing motion” and then heard “something metal (implying a gun) hit the ground.”  She had not actually seen anything leave Stansberry’s hand:  “I seen a throwing motion. That’s all I seen.”  It was too dark to see anything more.

With this slim piece of evidence, Streitz bombarded the jury with the following statements during his closing argument:  

*  “Mr. Dieveney ..(saw this) .. at which time Brandy Commodore, a young lady who is across the street, sees the defendant in a 23 jersey make a throwing motion towards the parking lot, and hears a sound, and later sees an object that was found in that direction.” (p. 1155, trial transcript)

* “Brandy Commodore across the alley saw the defendant make a throwing motion.”  ( p. 1158, transcript)

*  “And we have the witness, Brandy Commodore, who sees the defendant throw something, and you hear the sound of it, and what do we find over - between the van and the wall, the wall where the defendant is arrested?  The black nine-millimeter handgun.”  ( p. 1160, transcript)

*  “Yet, Brandy Commodore saw the throwing motion, and heard the sound of metal hitting the pavement.  Again, the gun is found by the defendant consistent with the direction and the sound that Ms. Commodore described to you.”   (p. 1164, transcript)

* “Several witnesses saw the defendant shoot Brandon Hall.  A witness saw the defendant make a throwing motion.”  (p. 1167, transcript)

*  “Well, again, Brandy Commodore sees the throwing motion; the gun is found in close proximity to where the throwing motion was made.”  ( p. 1172, transcript)

By dint of repetition, the idea of a “throwing motion” becomes ingrained in the minds of jurors.  It matters little that a four-foot high concrete wall separated Stansberry from the parking lot or that two police officers were standing next to the mini-van when the gun hit the pavement.  Commodore told police that Stansberry was standing “three, (maybe) four feet” away from the white van when he tossed the gun. (Commodore statement given 9/4/05)   If that is so, why didn’t one of the two officers in the parking lot arrest Stansberry?  He was instead arrested by another officer, Stephanie Weibye, who was backing down Third Street (a one-way street) in a squad car.

3. Jermaine Stansberry was convicted as well because he lost his temper on the witness stand.  It was not so much a case of screaming and shouting as angrily trying to insert his own arguments into statements made in answer to the prosecutor’s questions.  This did not impress the jury.  Prosecutor Streitz took note of this behavior during his closing argument:  “The defendant wasn’t going to let these University of Minnesota players come down to Minneapolis and hassle him and his pals, get in their face.  And I submit to you, that when he testified yesterday, you got a little glimpse of how the defendant reacts when somebody might confront him.”  (trial transcript, pp. 1171-72)

Rebuttal of the three arguments

Let me deal with Streitz’s arguments in reverse order, from the less serious to more serious pieces of evidence brought against Jermaine Stansberry:

3.  Stansberry was visibly angry at the trial.  I was there during his testimony.  It’s possible to interpret this, as Streitz successfully did, that Stansberry was a brute who easily lost his temper and might well have pulled a gun to shoot someone.  Another explanation, which I believe more plausible, is that Stansberry was angry that he was being charged with a murder he did not commit.  He simply could not believe this was happening to him. I know that Stansberry was advised to get a haircut and clean up his appearance before going to trial.  He refused to do so.  I interpret this as a kind of stubbornness born of the idea that he was innocent of the crime.  Stansberry was naive not to see that, regardless of his innocence or guilt, he was in deep trouble.  Someone who knew he had killed a man would have been more careful about his appearance before a jury.

2. Apart from the result of the DNA tests, the crux of the argument that Jermaine Stansberry was the shooter is a plausible connection between Stansberry’s known location after the shooting and the location where the gun was found. The murder weapon would have had to have traveled from Stansberry’s hand to its resting place on the pavement near the white mini-van.  Brandy Commodore’s testimony suggests a way that this could happen.  She said that she had seen Stansberry engage in a “throwing motion” toward the place where the gun was found and then heard the sound of a metallic object striking the pavement.  

Commodore  also testified that she saw Stansberry standing three or four feet away from the van.  This could not be.  Stansberry was never in the parking lot.  He was on the sidewalk near a four-foot-high concrete wall when he was arrested by Officer Weibye.  Even if he had been in the parking lot, Commodore could not easily have seen him behind the concrete wall.  

Weibye describes Stansberry as “somebody who was walking westbound on Third Street”.  She quickly subdued him, handcuffed him, and had him down on the pavement.  Asked if she saw a “throwing of anything”, officer Weibye replied: “Not that I saw”.  (transcript, p. 900) Yet, this is where Commodore claims she saw the “throwing motion”.  

When asked “Now, on this throwing motion you didn’t see anything come out of his hand?” (transcript, p. 516), Commodore answered “no”.  Commodore was standing across Third Street at the time.  In the police report, Commodore was asked: “How do you know that Stansberry threw the gun that was found?”  She replied:  “It was exactly where I had seen him make a throwing motion in that direction?  Keep in mind that the gun was found on the pavement of the parking lot next to the van on the passenger’s side.  The concrete wall and the van itself would have concealed her view.  She testified that, about fifteen minutes later, she stood “in the middle of the street”, she saw “a black object” - “what I believed to be .. a gun” - on the ground.  The distance and placement of objects between Ms. Commodore and this alleged object make Commodore’s tale quite implausible.

Two witnesses, Sergeants Pulphus and Walker of the Minneapolis police department, had a better view.  

According to a statement by Sergeant Jach, who was with them:  “As we came to the north side of the building Sgt. Pulphus and Sgt. Walker had their weapons pointed at a white mini van that was attempting to leave the northside parking lot.  Sgt. Pulphus yelled out gun.  Later I learned he heard a gun fall to the ground and saw that it was a black automatic handgun lying on the passengers side of the white mini van.”  Cain and Hardimon were in the mini van.

A statement made by Sergeants Smith and King who interviewed all the suspects on September 2, 2002, states:  “Hardimon is unable to account for the gun which dropped out of the van as he got out, although he does acknowledge seeing the gun.”

Sergeant Duane Walker testified that as he and Pulphus were running down the alley behind 314 Hennepin, “a black male wearing a tank top shouted out (that) the shooters are getting into a white van.”  Walker approached the van with his gun drawn and ordered the driver out of the van.  He then “observed a passenger from the opposite side, the passenger’s side of the vehicle, attempt to enter the passenger’s (does he mean driver’s?) side.”  This was Raymond Hardimon.  “As I placed the driver (Lee Cain) onto the ground, I heard Sergeant Pulphus ... state or shout (that) he just dropped a gun ... referring to the person who who was getting into the passenger (driver’s side).”  When Sgt. Walker went around the van, “I did see a semi-automatic handgun on the  ground (next to) the passenger’s door of the mini van.”  (transcript, p. 1134, 1136)

Sergeant Kelvin Pulphus testified that as he was running toward the van, he heard “a metal object hitting the ground.” (transcript, p. 913)  “I go to the passenger’s side of the van; at that time, I see a handgun on the ground. “  Asked how far away from the van the gun was, Pulphus said:  “a matter of a few inches.”  (transcript, p. 914)

During cross-examination by defense attorney  David McCormick, Pulphus admitted that he had not been “running toward the van” when he heard the gun drop, but “standing in front of the van.”  (transcript. p. 922) McCormick asked:  “You believed someone had just dropped a handgun, right?”  “Yes,” Pulphus answered.  “Q. From out of the van?  A. “Yes sir.”  (transcript, p. 923)  “Q. And you didn’t see any gun come flying towards the van, or anything, did you?  A. No, sir, I didn’t.”  (transcript,  p. 924)

In summary, the two police officers standing next to the van did not see any black object fly through the air and land a few inches from the van near the passenger door.  Commodore testified that Stansberry, standing on the sidewalk, threw the gun into the parking lot or, at least, made a “throwing motion” in that direction.  For the gun to have landed where it was found, it would have had to have been thrown over the van and, perhaps, also over a car parked next to the concrete wall.  It could not have been slid under the van because the four-foot concrete wall between the sidewalk and parking lot would have blocked Stansberry ‘s alleged toss.  But a gun thrown over the van to land on the passenger’s side would surely have been seen by officers Walker and Pulphus who were standing right there.

The two officers thought a gun was “dropped”, not thrown.  The most likely scenario is that Raymond Hardimon dropped the gun on the pavement - either through a window or out an opened door - before he attempted to climb from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat after Lee Cain was removed from the vehicle.  Perhaps Hardimon was hoping to conceal the fact that he had been sitting next to the door where the gun was found?

In any event, the jury chose to disregard the testimony of the two officers on the scene and instead believe a witness standing across the street whose testimony was riddled with errors.  That’s because prosecutor Streitz skillfully “stayed on message” in his repetitious references to a “throwing motion” in the closing argument.

3.  Five eyewitnesses testified at the trial that they had seen Jermaine Stansberry shoot Brandon Hall.  Furthermore, someone heard Stansberry threaten to shoot the Gopher football players.
Let’s take the verbal threat first.  Such a threat does not prove that Stansberry pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Brandon Hall although it does make such allegations seem more credible.  Evidence of this threat comes in a statement by Sgt. Thomsen of the Minneapolis Police Department.  The officer states:  “As I was telling them (Hardimon and Stansberry) to leave the area, I heard the male in the Jordan jersey (Stansberry) say, ‘You must be lookin to get shot.’  This was directed towards the group of football players behind me.”  This is a direct threat to kill someone, allegedly heard by a police officer.  Is it standard practice of the Minneapolis Police Department to let such comments slide and not arrest persons making personal terroristic threats?  I don’t think so.

Now consider the eyewitnesses who said they saw Stansberry shoot Brandon Hall.  Keep in mind that Stansberry and Hardimon are both African American males about the same age.  Stansberry has a slightly larger build.  Both were involved in the beating and robbery of Damian Hall; they were seen walking off together after the incident.  

Their shirts were often cited by witnesses to the crime.  As described in Sgt. Thomsen’s statement, Stansberry was wearing “a white Jordan jersey with the number 23 on the back.”  Hardimon was wearing “a plain white t-shirt or jersey.”  Many witnesses pointed to the man wearing the 23 Jordan jersey.  The number obviously stuck in people’s minds and may have colored their recollections of which man did the shooting.

Another key difference is that several witnesses testified that the shooter ran after he had shot Brandon Hall.  For example, witness Jason Green stated that a number of people ran toward Brandon Hall “after the defendant (or whoever the shooter was) ran.” (transcript, p. 853) Gary Simacek, another witness to the shooting, told police investigators that “after Brandon Hall was shot, the shooter and the other male ran westbound along a partial wall on the south side of 3rd street toward the alley and out of sight.” Hardimon himself admits (Supplement 20) that he was five feet away from the shooting, yet a minute or two later officers Walker and Pulphus arrested Lee Cain and Raymond Hardimon as they were trying to make a hasty exit from the parking lot in a white Dodge mini-van.  

On the other hand, several persons testified that Jermaine Stansberry was walking at a leisurely pace down Third Street North when arrested by officer Stephanie Weibye.  Officer Weibye states that she arrested “somebody who was walking westbound on Third Street.”  (transcript, p. 894)  The defense attorney reminded Weibye that in her sworn statement she had said that Stansberry was “standing” on the sidewalk, not walking.  “Q. So he was standing on the sidewalk, right?  A.  Yep.  Q. And as he was standing there, he was not, I assume, making any movements that you saw, to try to get away?  A. Not that I recall.”  (transcript, p. 900)  Even Brandy Commodore, standing across the street, stated in her police report that “he (Stansberry) was walking like he didn’t care, like nothing happened.”  Stansberry was not running away.

Prosecutor Streitz produced five witnesses who testified that Jermaine Stansberry was the shooter:  Darrell Reid, Charlton Keith, Jason Green, Justin Fraley, and Gary Simacek.  The first four were Gopher football players who had come to Damian Haye’s rescue after the fight involving Stansberry and Hardimon. Some had been drinking. Simacek was a security guard. What do these men say?

Reid identifies Stansberry by his “white Michael Jordan jersey with #23”. Asked whether he saw the actual shooting, Reid replies “I didn’t see the gun, but I seen the spark.”  (transcript, p. 696)  He testifies that another man was standing next to the shooter, a man wearing “a red-striped shirt.”  (transcript, p. 697)  This is Lee Cain, who was arrested with Hardimon.

Charlton Keith’s testimony is similar.  He, too, identifies Stansberry by the “Wizard shirt” and does not actually see the gun but only the “fire com(ing) out of the barrel.” (Supplement 46) He testifies at the trial that he saw “the guy in the Wizards jersey shoot Brandon.” (transcript, p. 667)  Another guy “in the red shirt” was standing next to the shooter. ( p. 666)

Jason Green also tells police that “the guy with the white #23 jersey’ shot Brandon Hall “point blank in the chest”.  After shooting Hall, the shooter “ran toward the caravan”.  He testifies that there were two others who were “get away drivers” in the van.  (Supplement 13)  Note: Hardimon was the only one who ran, and he ran to the van. At the trial Green testifies that he did not actually see the shooting.  “As I’m running, as I’m running down the street, I hear a gunshot, and I turned around, and I see him right here shooting .. holding a gun, shooting.” (transcript, p. 837)  Note: Brandon Hall was killed with a single shot.

Justin Fraley testifies that he was “in the back of the crowd.”  “The guy with the Wizard jersey was almost face to face with Brandon.  I heard a guy say: ‘that’s the one who was talking shit.”  At this point, the interrogator asks “That’s what the man with the Wizard jersey said? and Fraley answers “yah”.  Later, the interrogator asks out of the blue:  “So you saw the man with the Wizard jersey fire one round?”  Fraley answers, “right”. Notice that Fraley himself did not initially tie “the man with the Wizard jersey” (Stansberry) to either the statement or the shooting; it was suggested by the interrogator.  Fraley mentions a guy with the “red shirt” (Cain) was standing next to the shooter. Cain and Hardimon were in the van together when arrested.

Gary Simacek, the security guard, told police that he saw Brandon Hall standing in the street with a “black male wearing a white shirt with dark spots or lettering ... after Brandon Hall was shot, the shooter and the other male ran westbound along a partial wall on the south side of 3rd street toward the alley and out of sight.” (Supplement 53)  At the trial, Simacek testifies that, contrary to his earlier statement, he did not see what the man talking with Brandon Hall was wearing.  (transcript, p. 741-42)  Again, the shooter and “another person” were running.  When they passed the wall, Simacek did not see them any more.  This was the entrance to the parking lot. (transcript, p. 737)

Note that two men, the shooter and a man with a red shirt, are consistently seen together with Brandon Hall.  They then run away from the site of the shooting.  Lee Cain and Raymond Hardimon are arrested together in the van.  Meanwhile, Jermaine Stansberry, who is walking by himself, is also arrested on the sidewalk.  

Lee Cain was wearing a red shirt when he was arrested.  Cain told police during the initial interrogation that he spent the entire time that evening with Hardimon after picking him up on Lake Street around 9 p.m.   Hardimon told investigators that he was about five feet from the shooter. The investigators pointed out that the murder weapon dropped out of the van when the door was opened.  Hardimon and Cain (not Stansberry) were in the van.  Yet, the prosecutor charged Stansberry with the murder.

It’s significant that not all witnesses concur with the theory that Stansberry was the shooter.  Another Gopher football player, Danny Upchurch, told police on September 3rd: “We turn off to Hennepin going towards 3rd, and that’s when I see the two dudes down there talking to Brandon, one in a white shirt and one in a red shirt standing behind.  A couple of cars pass us ... (they drive down the street and turn around) ... by the time we got down there the two guys was gone, and Brandon was down there laying there on the side of the curb.”  (Supplement 37) Hardimon wore the white shirt; Cain, the red one.  Upchurch is not asked to testify at the trial.

Edward Brian Moss, who did identify Stansberry as the shooter, nevertheless told police investigators that he saw Stansberry, Hardimon, and Cain together at the van before the shooting.  “Jason Green came around the corner and had an angle of the van, and saw the one with the red shirt (Cain) pull the gun out.  After that he (Green) told me to run because ‘he’s got a gun, he’s got the heat.’’”  Also:  “The guy in the red shirt went to get the gun, and the guy in the white shirt kind of turned around to ... I don’t know ... if he actually wanted the gun, but he looked ...  the guy in the red shirt looked like he was going to hand it to the guy (in the white shirt), or something of that sort.”  (Supplement 38)  Cain was the guy in the red shirt; Hardimon, the guy in the white shirt.”

It’s also worthwhile recalling, from Sgt. Walker’s testimony, that as he and Sgt. Pulphus walked down the alley behind 314 Hennepin, “a black male wearing, I believe, a tank top shouted out (that) the shooters are getting into a white van.”  (transcript, p. 1134) They would be Hardimon and Cain, not Stansberry.

Jumping to Conclusions

The tape of the initial interviews with the three suspects by the lead investigators, Sgt. A. Smith and Sgt. P. King, on September 1, 2002, make it clear that the police “knew” who the shooter was already.  They tell Hardimon that he is the first person of the three they will interview because “other people are more guilty” than he.  They tell Cain several times that they know he is not the shooter.  They tell Hardimon and Cain that they will be questioning the shooter last.  And, in fact, the last person interviewed is Jermaine Stansberry.  The interviewers indicate that Stansberry shot someone six months earlier, a man named Jeffrey Carter; but for some reason Stansberry was still on the loose.

Hardimon is a complete liar in his part of the interview.  He tells investigators that he rode the Metro Transit bus (5H) from Franklin & Lake to downtown.  The tapes taken from the buses on that line do not show him aboard.  Cain testifies that he gave Hardimon a ride in his van.  Hardimon claims that he did not know the owner of the white van in which he was arrested.  An anonymous  driver simply invited him to “jump in”.  Also, Hardimon does not know the driver - Lee Cain - the man with whom he had spent the entire evening.  Then he remembers that the man’s name might be “Lee”. Hardimon also claims not to have been involved in the fight with Damian Haye earlier that night even though more than a dozen witnesses place him there.  A homicide investigator, officer Krebs, remembers Hardimon from an earlier incident at the Honeybee gas station.  Supplement 20 states: “The interview was terminated because of the indignant nature Hardimon took with us.”

Cain, too, is uncooperative. He claims he heard the shot coming from a block away even though Hardimon admitted to have been standing five feet away from the shooter when the shot was fired; and Cain was right next to Hardimon.  He has no idea how the murder weapon could have fallen out of his van; and the investigators do not pursue the subject.

An AP report dated September 5, 2002, stated that Jermaine Stansberry was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated robbery, and felony possession of a firearm.  Raymond Hardimon was charged only with aggravated robbery, for his part in the attack on Damian Haye.  “There wasn’t enough evidence to charge the third suspect”, Lee Cain, driver of the intended getaway van.  Apparently the testimony that Cain pulled the murder weapon from the van and gave it to someone was not enough evidence!  (See Edward Brian Moss’ testimony.)

A Lack of Witnesses at the Trial

Neither Raymond Hardimon nor Lee Cain was summoned to testify at the trial.  This is odd considering that Hardimon had told the lead investigators, Sgts. King and Smith, that “he was present at the time of the murder and saw everything that occurred.”  (Supplement 64)  Hardimon was convicted of a lesser crime and served time in prison.  Cain simply could not be located.  Reportedly, he was told by police not to talk with anyone.

It is also strange that police investigators refused to talk with their chief suspect, Jermaine Stansberry, after he declined to talk in the initial interview.  Stansberry later claimed that he wanted to consult an attorney first.  Stansberry and his girl friend, Lena Morrison, made numerous requests to the police that they interview Stansberry before going to trial. Another person, William McGaughey, delivered a letter, both to Judge Pamela Alexander and to Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, before the trial stating that Stansberry was willing to talk to police but they were unwilling to talk with him.  This had no effect.

Stansberry’s legal-aid attorney, David McCormick, was brought into the case quite late.  He did not have time to hire an investigator.  There was no time to locate key witnesses such as Lee Cain.  Nevertheless, the court refused to postpone the trial.

Subsequent Evidence

Lee Cain seems to have had feeling of guilt about Stansberry’s arraignment on murder charges.  Shortly after the incident, he had dinner with Stansberry’s mother and sister and told them what had happened.  He was sitting in the van when Hardimon ran up to the van shouting “go, go, go.” Also, Cain talked about the murder to a friend, Gornell Williams.  In this case, Cain confessed that he had actually handed the gun to Hardimon (also known as “Little Cass”).  Copies of letters received from Stansberry’s mother, Lona Hutchinson, and Gornell Williams are included in the exhibits.  Both parties are willing to testify.

Of interest, too, Raymond Hardimon boasted to a cell mate in prison that he had murdered Brandon Hall and gotten away with it.  The former cell mate told this to Stansberry when both were at Stillwater prison.  This cell mate, now released, is also willing to testify.

Brandy Commodore, the prosecutor's star witness, also had second thoughts about what she had done. She wrote Jermaine Stansberry a friendly letter and promised to come clean. Yet, when I called Commodore to ask if she would sign a statement retracting her court testimony, she first said she would and then could not be reached. I think she had meanwhile talked with her mother.

However, two close friends, who had talked with Commodore about the Stansberry case, were willing write and sign such statements. Basically, Commodore did not see any “throwing motion”. It was too dark to see much of anything. Their statements, too, are included in the exhibits.

Attorney David McCormick, whom Stansberry felt had let him down, later had his license to practice law suspended when he failed to appear at criminal hearings to represent his client and repeatedly refused to answer telephone calls. He and the Lawyer's Professional Responsibility board entered into a stipulated agreement calling for a 90-day suspension of his license and a $900 fine. McCormick is now back to practicing law in Minnesota.

It later came out that a man who lived downtown, Bill Bruce, had shot some videotape of the crime scene but the police were not interested in it. They chose the tapes they wanted to see and disregarded the rest.

Anthony Foresta, who spent thirteen years in Minnesota prisons, said it was common knowledge among prison inmates that the Minneapolis police framed Jermaine Stansberry.

Raymond Hardimon did eventually complete his lesser sentence that the prosecutor offered in the plea bargaining. However, he went back to prison for subsequent weapons violations. Hardimon shot someone during a visit to Detroit, Michigan. He will return to Michigan to face charges after he completes his sentence in Minnesota.

Jermaine Stansberry remains in the Stillwater penitentiary in Bayport, Minnesota, with few options for appealing his case. Occasionally an attorney will show interest for a few months but then will discover other priorities.

Amy Klobuchar, the Hennepin County attorney who prosecuted Jermaine Stansberry, parlayed her crime-fighting record to a seat in the United States Senate. As the DFL candidate, she was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Her approval rating stands at 59 percent as she prepares for reelection in 2012.

Speculations

Why did this happen? Jermaine Stansberry believes that the Minneapolis police had it in for him because he had filed a lawsuit against one of the officers who was present at the scene of Brandon Hall’s murder. Another possibility is that the police believed that Stansberry had committed another murder several months earlier but were unable to gather sufficient evidence to go to the prosecutor. They were obsessed with putting Stansberry away. The prosecutor, in turn, might have been doing the police a favor in overlooking the weakness of the case against Stansberry. Who knows?

It seemed a dubious proposition for the police not to interrogate their prime suspect before this person is put on trial. In this case, however, Stansberry refused to talk with police at the initial interview. He later said he was willing to talk but by then it was too late. The prosecutor explained that such testimony can be contaminated if the suspect has an opportunity to talk with others in jail. So the police never agreed to question Stansberry even though he said he was willing to talk.

There is no doubt that this was a high-profile murder. Brandon Hall was on the University of Minnesota football team. He had just played in his first game hours before the murder. Hall had a bright future ahead of him. Under the circumstances, then, it was important for the police and prosecutors to get on the case and be decisive. They needed to convict someone. The public and the murder victim's family wanted closure.

It’s interesting that Brandon Hall’s uncle, a member of the Detroit police force, attended Stansberry’s trial. The uncle listened closely to the testimony and smelled a rat. From his knowledge of police work, this case did not add up. He expressed that opinion briefly to Stansberry’s mother but afterwards kept his concerns to himself.


Final Thoughts

It seems that Lee Cain’s potential testimony is the key to establishing Jermaine Stansberry’s innocence.  How the legal system can be motivated to revisit the case is a great mystery.  There is, however, something called “justice” which is essential to a healthy society.  I hope that this summation of the case will motivate some better-qualified person to pursue that elusive ideal in the case of Brandon Hall’s murder.

 

The Crime Scene on 3rd Street between Hennepin and First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis

 

LEFT: This photo is taken from the sidewalk of the north side of 3rd Street between Hennepin Ave. and First Ave. in downtown Minneapolis, approximately where Brandy Commodore stood. Jermaine Stansberry was apprehended by Mpls. police officer Weibye on the sidewalk across the street behind the yellow car. The entrance to the parking lot where Lee Cain's mini-van was parked is seen on the right.

RIGHT: This photo is taken inside the parking lot looking toward 3rd Street and Hennepin Avenue. Cain's mini-van was parked in the second space (where the left-most car is parked in the photo). There was another vehicle parked between it and the concrete wall to the left. The van was backing up toward the middle of the lot in order to flee the scene. The murder weapon was found by police on the pavement of this parking lot right next to Cain's van, on the passenger side where Hardimon had been sitting.

CONCLUSIONS: Prosecutor Streitz stressed during the closing arguments that Jermaine Stanberry had thrown the murder weapon just before he was arrested from the spot on the sidewalk where he was standing over the iron fence and concrete wall and parked car so that it landed on the passenger's side of the van within inches of the door. This was a distance of perhaps 50 feet. It is far more likely that Raymond Hardimon had the murder weapon and he slipped the gun out of a window or door of the passenger's side just before he moved over to the driver's seat.

It is also notable that Brandy Commodore - sole witness to the "throwing motion" allegedly made by Stansberry - was standing some distance from Stansberry around 1 a.m. It was quite dark. She could not have seen much. However, Commodore has since recanted her testimony. See exhibits below.

Brandon Hall was shot and killed at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and Third Street. This is behind the yellow parked car another 60 feet or so.

 

Exhibits

A letter from Lona J. Hutchinson (Jermaine Stansberry's mother) dated April 25, 2005

“ Shortly after the killing of Mr. Brandon Halls murder, Mr. Lee Cane AKA's Mad C came to my apartment in New Hope and explained to me what happened. He said he was sitting in his van and Raymond Hardimon ran up to the van he was sitting in and shouted GO! GO! GO! and at the same time he heard something metal hit the ground. He also stated Jermaine Stansberry was no where around.”

Lona J. Hutchinson

 

A letter from Gornell Williams dated May 11, 2005

“ A month went by from the killing of Brandon Hall and I ran into Mr. Lee Cain and he said to me he gave Raymond Hardamon AKA (Little Cass) the gun. Minutes later Lee said Raymond Hardamon came running back to the van with the gun saying drive, hurry, go, to, go.”

Gornell Williams

 

Letter to Jermaine Stansberry from Brandy Commodore dated February 26, 2007

“ Whad up Jermaine.

Hi. I am Brandy, Laverick’s ex & Kawana’s best friend. Shawna contacted me and said you may need my help a.s.a.p! I was there and got ordered to go to the trial. Not by choice, they made everyone in the crime scene go. Instead of writing, call me (612) 522-xxxx. We’re on your team out here so holla @ me or Shawna.”

Brandy

call any time or 612-246xxxx cell


Statement of Kawana Sprinkles dated July 23, 2007

"I have known Brandy Commodore for about four years and have had conversations with her about the night when Brandon Hall was murdered in downtown Minneapolis.

Brandy said she was with a group of people that evening when shots were heard. The others in the group thought that Jermaine Stansberry was the shooter and she went along with them.

Brandy told me that actually she had not seen anything. She had only heard the shots.

Brandy Commodore was friends with the Gopher football players, maybe even Brandon Hall.”

Kawana Sprinkles

 

Statement of Kaishawna Frazier dated July 23, 2007

“I am a friend of Brandy Commodore, who was a witness at the trial of Jermaine Stansberry for the murder of Brandon Hall.

In the winter of 2007, while visiting my cousin at Children’s Hospital, I ran into Brandy Commodore. She commented to me that she didn’t think Jermaine Stansberry had committed the murder. However, everyone else in the crowd she was with thought Stansberry had done it so she went along with them.

I had a telephone conversation with Brandy Commodore several weeks later. Then she told me that when the police interrogated her after the murder, they kept asking questions like: ‘Did you see him (Stansberry) throw the gun?’ She answered ‘no’ several times. But the police kept asking until she gave an answer that satisfied them.

The police also told Brandy Commodore that Jermaine Stansberry had shot someone several months earlier and they were trying to get him for that.

When I asked about the ‘throwing motion’, Brandy would not give a straight answer. She would say things like ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t remember.’

Brandy Commodore was dating one of the Gopher football players at the time of the murder. I think she wanted to please them.

She also said she was related to the judge, who didn’t like Stansberry.”

Kaishawna Frazier

 

Statement of William McGaughey dated July 23, 2007

“I was given two telephone numbers for Brandy Commodore from a letter that she wrote to Jermaine Stansberry.

On Tuesday, July 17, 2007, I called what was listed as Brandy Commodore’s home telephone number. The woman who answered identified herself as Brandy’s mother. She was quite curious about my purpose in calling. I explained that I wanted to talk with her daughter about events on the evening when Brandon Hall was murdered. The mother said that she did not know how to get in touch with her daughter but, if they did make contact, she would pass along the request.

I then called the other number which was listed as Brandy Commodore’s cell phone number. I left a message on the answering machine. Less than five minutes later, Brandy Commodore herself called me. I explained in some detail that I wished to talk with her about her testimony at Jermaine Stansberry’s trial for the murder of Brandon Hall. Brandy told me that she had spoken on the telephone with Jermaine Stansberry in February and that he had told her that his legal appeal was well underway and her assistance was no longer needed.

I told Brandy Commodore that I thought it would still be helpful if she made a statement about events on the night of the murder. Brandy said she was at work but would call me after work, at 5:15 p.m. I said that I had a meeting that evening. If I wasn’t there, she could leave a message on my answering machine.

I was at home until around 5:30 p.m. No one called. Before leaving, I called Brandy Commodore’s cell phone and left a message requesting that she call me. I repeated the call on the following morning. There were no calls from Brandy.

On the morning of Saturday, July 21, I again called Brandy’s cell phone number. A man answered. He said he did not know Brandy Commodore; he had just recently received the number.”

William McGaughey

 

P.S.

I visited Jermaine Stansberry at the Stillwater prison in Bayport on Sunday, November 8, 2015. This was my second visit.

Jermaine said he had nine more years to serve on his sentence. He would be 50 when he was released. I told him that I am 74 and have had many good years after the age of 50.

Jermaine said he might die before being released because the windows at the old Stillwater prison have asbestos. Also, the rusty pipes release brown water into the faucet. He wanted a television set but the prison authorities insist that sets owned by inmates be bought through them at exorbitant prices.

Jermaine said he would try to contact Cinque Turner, the gunman in the case that convicted Anthony Foresta, to see if Turner would make a statement regarding Foresta’s innocence. Jermaine asked me to try to locate ____ Horton who had loudly screamed Jermaine’s innocence at the judge before being escorted out of the court room during Jermaine’s trial. This man could testify about a conversation he had had with Hardimon in prison in which Hardimon had confessed to the murder.

So far, none of his appeals have worked. The Innocence Project put him on a waiting list but ultimately decided not to become involved. Jermaine also wanted to hire a DNA investigator to reexamine the DNA evidence. He thought the witness for the prosecution had underplayed the DNA evidence that ruled him out but did not rule out Hardimon.

I told Jermaine he had not taken the charges against him seriously enough. Jermaine agreed. He had not done enough to prepare for the trial. Jermaine thought Lee Cain still lived in Minneapolis. He was a “Mama’s boy” who seldom left his mother’s home.

While we were talking, Jermaine seemed distracted by a little boy sitting behind me who played peakaboo. Jermaine is locked up in his cell for 23 hours of each day and can have visitors only on weekends. Few people do visit. He says he has been forgotten.

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