Innocent Appeal. UNCUFF THE INNOCENT (Nonprofit) started this petition to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and 2 others
At the age of just 18 years old, Michael Crump was arrested and wrongfully convicted of the tragic murder of 21-year-old Eric “Nike” Jones in Virginia after an eyewitness misidentified Mike due to his hoodie.
There was NO other evidence against Mike, no fingerprints, no DNA, just the word of one eyewitness who initially said it was too dark to see anything and she did not see the killer’s face, only the hooded sweatshirt that the killer wore.
Despite the lack of solid evidence against Mike, he was shockingly convicted by a single judge at a one day bench trial in 1996. Mike was sentenced to a total of 40 years for a crime he did not commit and for which he continues to maintain his innocence.
Twenty-four years later, Mike remains in prison in Virginia as an innocent man. We need your support to help free Mike Crump and bring justice to his family and loved ones!
Please sign and share this petition, which the nonprofit UNCUFF THE INNOCENT will be using to support Mike’s case for freedom by urging Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General to investigate his wrongful conviction and to FREE MICHAEL CRUMP.
You can learn more about Mike’s case and the evidence of his innocence by reading below. Thank you for taking a stand against the injustice of Mike’s wrongful conviction!
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In October 1995, Eric Jones, known as “Nike,” was hanging out with a group of friends just after midnight in a house in Roanoke, Virginia. Suddenly, an intruder burst partway through the doorway without fully entering the home, fired one shot, and fled. “Nike” was hit in the chest and was left fighting for his life.
During the 911 call moments after the shooting, a distraught eyewitness told the dispatcher that no one could identify the intruder because “we didn’t see nothing ‘cause it was all dark.” The caller was not sure of the intruder’s ethnicity. When asked to describe the shooter, the eyewitness said, “I think he’s a black male. […] All I saw was the fire come out” of the gun.
Minutes later, a police officer arrived at the scene and interviewed the eyewitness. She could only give a vague description of the shooter, saying he wore a heavy, black, hooded sweatshirt — a hoodie — “with the hood pulled over the head covering his face.” The officer’s report clearly stated that the eyewitness “did not see the face of the suspect.”
Sadly, Eric “Nike” Jones did not survive. He died from the gunshot wound he sustained that night, leaving his family devastated and the community in shock.
The police began their investigation. They initially struggled to identify a shooter because of their long list of possible suspects, the lack of evidence left at the scene where only a single bullet was found, and the inability of the many eyewitnesses present that night to describe the intruder.
Nine hours after the shooting, police again interviewed the eyewitness who had made the 911 call. She said the perpetrator had on “dark tennis shoes” and his dark-looking hooded jacket had “the hood drawn with the string pulled to where you could only see his nose, part of his eyes, and like around his mouth.” She told police that they “didn’t have much lights on because the baby was asleep. The only light was on was the one in the kitchen. And there was one little light on in the ceiling fan.”
Without any distinct memory of the shooter, the eyewitness would not be able to identify any suspect.
Then, the day after the murder, the eyewitness saw a man wearing a hoodie in a convenience store. She thought he was the shooter because his hood was pulled down to his hairline, matching her memory of the intruder. The eyewitness later claimed to police that the man she saw at the store was wearing the same clothes as the intruder who killed “Nike,” and that was the reason she thought he was the shooter. Frightened, she gave the man just a quick glance “from his eyebrows down to his nose” before leaving the store (Preliminary Hearing Transcript pp. 26-27).
Police never obtained surveillance footage to see who the individual in the store was.
Six days after the shooting, detectives showed the eyewitness a photo lineup of six men. Only one of the men in the lineup was wearing a hoodie. Detectives asked the eyewitness if she “recognized anyone.” She was unable to make an identification. Bizarrely, this took place at the victim’s home on the day of his funeral.
Again, police did not have any identification.
Then suddenly, nine days after the killing, the woman who had dialed 911 informed police that she COULD identify the shooter.
When police showed her the faulty photo lineup a second time, she pointed the finger at the one man wearing a hoodie. At trial, the eyewitness explained that the man she picked out of the photo lineup “had a hooded sweatshirt” (Trial Transcript p. 91).
That man happened to be 18-year-old Mike Crump.
Years later, recalling these events, the eyewitness said that after her photo lineup identification, police told her, “Yes, you got it right, that was Mike Crump.”
“They didn’t tell me right then,” the eyewitness explained. “It took them a while before they told me, yes, you got it right.”
In what appears to be a classic example of post-identification feedback, police made comments that could cause an eyewitness to feel certain she has picked out the guilty party, which increases the chance of suspect misidentification and wrongful conviction later on at trial.
Mike Crump, only 18 years old, voluntarily agreed to speak to the police to help them with an unrelated issue, or so they told him. He talked with detectives without an attorney present because he was innocent and never dreamed police would pin a murder on him. But that is exactly what happened.
The prosecution built its case on this single eyewitness’s identification of Mike. The identification should have been recognized right away as a misidentification. The eyewitness’s testimony was highly questionable given that she originally stated on the night of the murder that she did not even see the intruder’s face.
Again and again in Mike’s case, evidence of his innocence has been disregarded, including:
- The eyewitness changed her story multiple times, giving new and contradictory details about what she saw that night. Her original statement on the day of the shooting was that she did not see the shooter’s face covered by a hood in the dark house. By the time of the preliminary hearing, the eyewitness on whose testimony the prosecution relied now suddenly stated that “all the lights were on in the living room” where the shooting occurred, allowing her to see the shooter clearly, down to his “eyes with long lashes.”
- The eyewitness was diagnosed with a rare eye disease at the time of the murder. Her eye surgeries and vision problems would be expected to reduce her ability to see and describe the shooter accurately.
- Not a SINGLE PIECE of forensic evidence existed against Mike. No fingerprints, no DNA, and no murder weapon were ever found.
- Before the trial, other suspects were named as responsible for the shooting. One of those suspects was identified in a recorded prison phone call during which it was clearly acknowledged that Mike Crump was not involved. That evidence was withheld at trial. In fact, police never followed up on ANY of the suspects named in connection with Nike’s murder after Mike was incorrectly identified.
- Mike had absolutely no history of violence. He adamantly protested his innocence from day one. He rejected the plea bargains offered by the prosecution without even knowing their terms, refusing to admit guilt for a crime of which he is 100% innocent.
- Alibi witnesses were even available to testify that Mike was at their home at the time of the murder, but they were never called by his public defender to take the stand. Apparently, Mike’s defender felt it unnecessary as he believed the prosecution’s evidence against Mike was so weak. After the trial, two alibi witnesses wrote signed statements that Mike was a guest in their house, arriving many hours before the shooting and leaving many hours afterwards, without leaving their presence. This means it was impossible for Mike to have committed the shooting.
Mike Crump recalls, “When it was time to put my alibi witnesses on the stand, my public defender took a recess. He came into my holding cell and said, ‘I will have you home by 5:30 PM eating dinner. The judge doesn’t believe that you’re guilty. He doesn’t believe a word that eyewitness said. He’s ready to let you go home. Let’s not waste any more of his time. We don’t need the alibi witnesses to testify. We don’t need to put on any witnesses. The judge knows you didn’t do it. There’s no need to waste any more time. Are you ready to go home?’ I said, ‘Yes.’
“We reentered the courtroom. My attorney said he’s not calling witnesses. The judge found me guilty. Over two decades have passed and I still remain imprisoned for a crime I didn’t commit.”
Despite all this evidence supporting Mike Crump’s innocence, he was found guilty of the murder of Nike Jones at a trial lasting only one day in 1996. This verdict was reached at a bench trial by a single judge on the basis of just one eyewitness’s testimony, without Mike’s having the benefit of a trial before a jury. Mike recalls that he and his mother specifically requested a jury trial but his public defender disregarded their request, reassuring him that the prosecution’s case was so weak that the case would be thrown out and a trial by jury was unnecessary.
Mike received a 40-year sentence: 37 years for a murder he knew nothing about and 3 years for possession of a firearm he never possessed. In fact, Mike never carried any firearm or weapon at any time in his life.
In 2021 at the age of 44, Mike remains in prison in Virginia after more than 25 years of incarceration. He is not due to be released until 2031. He has now spent more than half his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The world finally got to hear Mike’s story in March 2020 when it was featured on Investigation Discovery network’s REASONABLE DOUBT show, “A Shot in the Dark.”
Hosted by Chris Anderson and Fatima Silva, the show first aired on March 17, 2020, and can be viewed at the Investigation Discovery website:
In “A Shot in the Dark,” you will see how it would have been virtually impossible for the eyewitness to identify anyone as the shooter because of the low lighting in the house at the time of the murder and the eye disease with which the eyewitness was diagnosed.
You will hear an ophthalmologist, who assessed the eyewitness’s vision records, concluding that “at best, her identification would be unreliable” because she had significant damage to her eyes and surgeries before the night of the murder.
You will learn how the eyewitness’s changing statements demonstrate her suspect identification was unreliable, but her testimony was still used by the judge to convict an innocent man.
You will even hear from one of Mike’s friends at the time who is confident Mike is not responsible for “Nike” Jones’ murder. This former friend says he knows who really killed “Nike” and is adamant that the shooter was not Mike Crump. He admits Mike has been wrongfully imprisoned for the past 25 years.
What you do not see in the Reasonable Doubt show about Mike’s case is the full extent of the unjust treatment he has experienced throughout his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.
Since the tragic killing of Eric “Nike” Jones, evidence has been ignored at every turn when it supports Mike Crump’s innocence.
The Reasonable Doubt show does not reveal how dramatically the eyewitness’s story changed from the night of the murder to the day of the trial.
For example, despite having initially stated that “we didn’t see nothing ‘cause it was all dark” and the shooter was wearing “dark tennis shoes,” around a month after the shooting the eyewitness subsequently told police that the first thing she had seen was the suspect’s shoe, and he had on “a pair of black/white with green detailed Nikes.” A crime scene photo shows a black and white Nike shoe with green details resting on the carpet close to where the eyewitness saw the shooting.
But eyewitness memory issues were never considered. The new shoe description provided by the eyewitness appeared to match closely the green detailed Reebok shoes that Mike Crump was wearing in photographs detectives took of him days after the shooting. The similarity was used to make Mike appear guilty. Mike recalls explaining to his attorney that he hadn’t even owned the Reebok tennis shoes on the date the murder took place, but evidence of this was never pursued.
The eyewitness’s changing statements led her sister, who was seated next to Eric “Nike” Jones before he was shot, to write a signed affidavit in defense of Mike Crump in 2007. She stated, “I told the police officers in 1995 that there’s no way my sister […] could have seen Mike Crump shoot and kill Eric Nike Jones. I was the one right next to Nike when the killer came into the house. [My sister] was laying down on the sofa and the house was very dark and if I couldn’t see the killer there’s no way [she] could have. I was never called to the stand in 1995.” The sister stated she was willing to come to court on Mike Crump’s behalf “because I do feel that he is innocent.”
Further evidence of innocence emerged after Mike was convicted. The eyewitness’s own father went on record in a signed statement in 1998, writing that his daughter admitted she made a mistake when she testified that she recognized Mike Crump as the person who shot Nike Jones. The father wrote that he came forward with this admission to agree to help Mike Crump “because it is the right thing to do.”
In the years since the trial, the eyewitness’s statements have continued to change. For example, she testified during the trial that she was sitting on the sofa in the corner of the living room when the intruder burst into the house. But after the trial, she said she was sitting down at the table and was cutting cake when the intruder burst in. In her most recent statement, she says that she was standing in the kitchen when the shooting happened. The eyewitness has also admitted to Mike and others on several occasions that she isn’t certain of her identification of him. In the transcript of one prison phone call, the eyewitness even told Mike Crump, “You were right, you’re not guilty.”
Mike Crump has faced other injustices: the many failures of the criminal justice system, which has yet to correct the error of his wrongful conviction.
No one within the criminal justice system has taken the steps needed to help free Mike, such as by identifying all the factors in his case that could cause a well-intentioned eyewitness to misidentify the suspect. Eyewitness misidentification is one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions.
First, he was prosecuted in Roanoke City for a crime where significant evidence showed he was not guilty. The Roanoke County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office states on its website that each Commonwealth’s Attorney has the responsibility to refuse “to prosecute those against whom the evidence does not indicate probable guilt.”
Second, Mike’s public defender failed to perfect his appellate process. Thus, his appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals was not filed on time, resulting in an automatic dismissal. Mike’s inability to learn the law in one year following his sentencing made it beyond impossible to meet the Commonwealth of Virginia’s strict time guidelines for filing a state Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Third, Mike’s federal Habeas Corpus petition was similarly time-barred by the United States District Court.
But the greatest injustice, which cannot be expressed in a single TV show, is the full extent of the pain and anguish that Mike and his family and other loved ones have had to endure throughout the years. No one can bring back all of the years that Mike has lost due to his wrongful conviction.
Mike Crump writes:
“I have been incarcerated for a crime I did not commit since I was 18 years old. I just turned 40. I have spent over half of my life in prison as a guiltless man. Due to my age and naivete, I put my life in the hands of an incompetent public defender who convinced me that my case would be thrown out due to lack of evidence. He also assured me by having a bench trial would work to my advantage because the judge understood the prosecution did not have a strong case.
“I need help with having my case reopened. Please assist me in clearing my name and bringing justice for Eric Jones, his family and myself.”
UNCUFF THE INNOCENT is a nonprofit organization supporting Mike Crump because he is innocent and is wrongly imprisoned. WE NEED YOUR HELP!
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TODAY by signing this petition and sharing it with your friends and family.
If you have any questions about Mike’s case or you are able to volunteer time or support, please contact email@example.com or visit UNCUFF THE INNOCENT online at www.uncufftheinncent.org and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting Mike’s journey to freedom!
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