Re-Trial of Miami Murder Suspect Wins Acquittal After Ten Years’ Incarceration

MIAMI – November 18, 2005 – After ten years of incarceration following his arrest for the April 1990 drive-by shooting death of Antonio Black, Jr., at Norland Senior High School in Miami, Darrien Mark Lawrence is a free man today after a jury of twelve acquitted him of murder charges following a two week retrial. Mark Shapiro, a partner with the law firm Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf, P.A., represented Lawrence who has spent more than 10 years behind bars.

“From day one, Mr. Lawrence has maintained his innocence and I believed him,” said Shapiro. After announcing the jury’s verdict, I leaned over to my client and said ‘you are going home’.”

Lawrence was arrested and charged with first-degree murder five years following the crime. Represented by publicly appointed lawyers in October 2000, Lawrence was tried and found guilty of first degree murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and firing a deadly missile into an automobile. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus fifteen years. However, the conviction was reversed by an appellate court when it was determined that irregularities during jury selection in that case resulted in an unfair trial.

Earlier this week, Shapiro electrified the courtroom with his closing argument that convinced the jury that an eyewitness to the shooting could not have seen the face of the shooter as he had claimed. He also convinced the jury that they should not be believe the transcribed testimony of a government informant who in Lawrence’s first trial claimed that Lawrence had confessed the murder to him and others.

“That testimony was bought and paid for,” said Shapiro. “It was difficult enough exposing the true nature of the informant’s self-interest, but doing so when only the transcript is read in lieu of the witness’ presence in court, was nearly impossible. Both Mr. Lawrence and I are very thankful that the jury saw the informant’s testimony for what it actually was: a big lie.”

Shapiro also argued that police detectives investigating the original murder failed to follow up a solid lead on another man who was identified by another eyewitness. “Why the police did not investigate this other person as a possible suspect is beyond me and simply unacceptable,” said Shapiro. “I discovered that information was known to them as far back as 1997, but because they had already arrested my client two years earlier, no one was interested in any further investigation. I believe that because they already had my client arrested and in custody for the crime, neither they nor the prosecution could be bothered to make an effort to be sure they hadn’t arrested and charged the wrong man.”

“Unknown to the jury was the fact that had police fully investigated the lead, they would have discovered, as I did, that this other man whose name is strikingly similar to my client’s, not only had been known to others to have carried the same type of MAC 11 firearm used in the Norland shooting, but had also been arrested near Norland a year after the incident for firing a gun from his car as he drove around the same back parking lot at Norland,” said Shapiro.

Based on evidentiary rulings, that evidence was not presented to the jury.