Judge orders new trial for man convicted of murder after Medill Justice Project tracked down witness


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Fisk Hall, home of the former Medill Justice Project – which will soon rebrand as the Medill Investigative Lab.

Alan Perez, Campus Editor

A Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ordered a new trial for a man convicted of murder after reporters for the Medill Justice Project unearthed testimony from a witness who says the man did not commit the crime.

Judge Miguel de la O vacated Friday the 2005 murder conviction of Andre Gonzales after Arnold Clark, who originally spoke with MJP in 2015, testified in November that Gonzales was not the killer of Nigel Whatley during a robbery outside the Players Club in October 2005.

“I’m honored,” Gonzales told The Medill Justice Project in a news release. “[The judge] did what was right. He made an excellent ruling. I’m very thankful for that judge.”

During the 2010 trial that concluded with a life sentence, Miami-Dade prosecutors said Gonzales, who also goes by Tony Brown, shot and killed Whatley during the robbery. Prosecutors at the time relied on the testimony of a victim of the incident, Michael Morris.

But serious doubts were raised about Morris’ recollection and the evidence presented during the case.

Even after the conviction, a Miami-Dade judge granted a retrial request, which was overturned by an appeals court. And a 2015 MJP investigation also found that three jurors had doubts about Gonzales’ conviction.

MJP also tracked down Clark, who was then a bouncer at a nearby nightclub, and obtained an interview in which he said Gonzales did not pull the trigger the night of the killing. Clark did not originally go to police with this information, he said, because of fear of retribution. After hearing from MJP, however, he decided to testify.

In the Friday ruling, Judge de la O cited the new witness account as reason for his decision.

“Clark’s testimony, in conjunction with the evidence adduced at the original trial, makes it obvious that Clarks’ [sic] testimony would ‘substantially undermine confidence in the outcome of the prior proceedings,’” he wrote.

Prosecutors have not said whether they will appeal the decision or retry Gonzales. A hearing is set for Friday.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @_perezalan_