Miami-Dade County

State to probe inmate claim that Miami-Dade jurors convicted innocent man

Andre Gonzalez
Andre Gonzalez Florida Dept. of Corrections

Prosecutors say they will review a claim by a prison inmate who says jurors locked up an innocent man for a fatal shooting outside a Liberty City nightclub in October 2005.

Arnold Clark told the Medill Justice Project that he witnessed the slaying and that a man named Andre Gonzalez, who is serving life in prison for the crime, was not the gunman.

The inmate’s claim came in a story published this week by journalism students with the Justice Project at Northwestern University. Clark, who is serving a 12-year sentence for burglary with assault, said he never before came forward with the information for fear of retaliation in the neighborhood.

In the article, Clark claimed the shooter was a “friend,” although he did not identify the man. “As for the person whose name that you said was locked up for it, I don’t even know him, you know, but I do know he wasn’t no triggerman,” Clark told the Justice Project.

Clark said he was bouncer at the club at the time.

“We believe the conviction was correct but if there is credible evidence that says otherwise, we certainly want to review it,” said Ed Griffith, a Miami-Dade State Attorney’s spokesman.

Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Steven Yermish, the man’s attorney, said his office is reviewing the story and will decide if it can seek relief from a court on Gonzalez’s behalf.

At trial, prosecutors said Gonzalez shot and killed Nigel Whatley during a robbery and scuffle outside a Liberty City nightclub. A surviving victim, Michael Morris, who was wounded in the robbery, identified Gonzalez as the attacker. Morris told police he was only “60 percent” certain the attacker was Gonzalez.

The key evidence was Gonzalez’s DNA discovered on a black scully cap discarded near Whatley’s body, a cap Morris said the gunman wore during the robbery. During the trial, Gonzalez’s girlfriend testified she was with him at the club that night, but took no part in the killing.

Jurors in 2010 found Gonzalez guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison. Afterward, a Miami-Dade judge granted a request for a new trial, a decision later overturned by an appeals court.

Before the slaying, Gonzalez served three separate stints in prisons, including more than two years on a manslaughter conviction.