Justice Denied: Shocking Evidence Suggests False Conviction in Lawrence Paine’s Murder Case
As I look at the evidence, it appears the State of Wisconsin falsely convicted Lawrence Paine for two murders committed on April 10, 2004.
If you believe the State, Paine killed Janari Saddler and Aaron Harrington at Saddler’s drug house on April 10, 2004, over an insult about where Paine parked his car.
Paine has been in custody since Mother’s Day, May 9, 2004, after his mother told him police wanted him. He walked into a Milwaukee police station expecting to prove his innocence.
He lost his freedom 7,157 days ago.
After the first trial ended in a hung jury, the State retried Paine, adding some nicely altered testimony. Paine was convicted on July 1, 2005. A public defender represented him.
I wrote an article about his case:
The most troubling issue about Paine’s case is that the State suppressed video evidence that supported his alibi, which could have exonerated him.
State Withheld Crucial Strip Club Surveillance Video
Paine told police he was at a strip club the night of the murder. He described his activities in detail. The Milwaukee police had the video that shows Paine there, but never showed it to the defense. Instead, they used a doctored video that did not show Paine at the strip club.
But he was there, and the surveillance videos the police possessed all along prove it beyond a doubt. Paine was there with a guy named Skin, and he interacted with the people he claimed he did – a pizza delivery guy and, after leaving and coming back, he spoke to a dancer at the bar, just like he said.
Video Contradicts Testimony of Key Witnesses
At the trial, the State scoffed at Paine’s alibi, implying Paine made it all up, including inventing Skin’s existence.
At the trial, the State called only two eyewitnesses. Either one might be the actual murderer: Eric Howard and George Donald.
Based on the newly discovered surveillance video, Howard and Donald perjured themselves.
Both were at the murder scene. Both men called 911 separately from pay phones and told what appeared to be coordinated stories.
Suppressed Evidence Shatters Eyewitness Testimony
During the 911 call, neither man mentioned Paine.
When they testified at trial, Howard and Donald said Paine was at the murder house – an upper apartment in a duplex in Milwaukee – from sometime in the late afternoon until the murders occurred at about 4 am. They were drinking beer and smoking pot and cigarettes.
Nine men’s DNA were found on beer and soda cans and cigarette butts. None of the DNA matched Paine’s.
But eyewitnesses Donald and Howard placed him there, saying he was there steadily, without interruption, until Paine allegedly exploded in anger and killed two men in front of them and several others. The fight was supposedly about where Paine parked his car.
But the newly discovered video surveillance from Club Paradise shows Paine was not at the murder house steadily the afternoon of April 8 to 4 am April 9, 2004 – and leaving only after he killed two men. Paine was at Club Paradise from 11:30 pm to 1:30 am, just as he told the police – and just as he testified at trial.
Not until 18 years later, when Milwaukee Police accidentally sent the real video to Paine, per a discovery request based on his losing the original discovery, did Paine get the corroboration of his alibi.
Yes, Paine could have left the club and gone to the murder house and killed the two men, but the two witnesses swore he was there the whole night. And there was no physical evidence linking Paine to the murder house, other than the testimony of two men – Donald and Howard. No fingerprints, no DNA, no other testimony.
Having the videotape would have undermined their credibility.
There was physical evidence that Donald and Howard – along with L. Z. Jolly, Rodney Hudson, and Ronald ‘Q’ Terry – were at the murder house the night someone shot and killed Saddler and Harrington.
Howard, Donald, Jolly, Hudson, and Terry were members of the same drug gang. Some claim the name of the gang was the Brothers of Struggle or BoS.
L.Z. Jolly’s mugshot
Jolly had been arrested 17 times on allegations of murder, drugs, and various violent crimes. He allegedly killed at least one other man at a drug house and, at one time, was one of the most wanted men in Wisconsin. His life ended as he lived it: he was shot and killed on May 20, 2019 – some 14 years after the murders of Harrington and Saddler.
But the State never called him as a witness. Neither did they call Hudson or another man – Ronald Q. Terry – who were there at the scene.
The police arrested Ronald Q. Terry in October 2004 – on drug charges – six months after the murders. Odd. Police found a gun Terry dropped when he fled that is almost certainly the murder gun – a 9 mm Ruger.
Gun Connection Revealed: DNA Match and Untested Evidence Raise Questions
Police did not test the gun, or if they did, they did not share the results with Paine’s defense.
Some 13 years later, with the help of an attorney paid for by Paine’s mother, family, and friends, they found the gun’s legal owner. He agreed to let Paine’s team test it. They tested it. It matched the characteristics of the bullet and casings found at the murder scene.
When you consider the fact that the DNA of the man who had the gun, Ronald Q. Terry, was found at the murder scene on beer cans and a cigarette butt, the coincidence is striking.
Intimidation Tactics and Robbery Motive Cast Doubt on Paine’s Conviction
Now, let’s take this analysis a step further.
Ronald Q. Terry, the man who dropped the gun which is likely the murder gun, along with Jolly, Donald, and Rodney Hudson – all there the night of the murder – went out of their way to intimidate the woman who lived downstairs from the murder house, Sherika Ray, and who was home the night of the murders.
The murdered men: Saddler and Harrington, and Terry, Hudson, Howard, Donald, and Jolly, were all drug dealers. The murder house was a drug house.
The downstairs neighbor, Ray, said she heard the victim crying out about “robbery.” She later told this to Detective Gilberto Hernandez – just before the trial when Hernandez served her with a subpoena to testify at the trial.
Detective Gilberto Hernandez
When Ray received the subpoena, she broke down and cried. She told Hernandez that Q. Terry, brought her to a house, took her down in the basement, and, there with Hudson, Donald, and Jolly brandishing weapons, accused her of informing the police, and, in effect, told her they would kill her if she told the police about what happened that night.
Ray told Detective Hernandez that from what she overheard the night of the murders, it was a robbery. The State never called Ray as a witness.
Because there was no physical evidence, the State’s trial plan was to undermine Paine’s alibi – and use two witnesses, Donald and Howard, to convict Paine.
Sherika Ray could unhinge the whole case.
Paine’s Plea for Justice
Lawrence Paine said:
“I have been in prison for more than 19 years from the day I turned myself in, and what happened to me was no accident. I received a double life sentence without physical evidence through witness tampering, false documentation, and sabotaging alibi video footage.
“The State’s witnesses did things which would incriminate anyone, including witness tampering. The detectives who ‘investigated’ my case have been involved multiple times in wrongful conviction cases in Wisconsin in which innocent men were convicted and later freed.”
Paine has a point.
Innocent Lives Destroyed
There is a history of framing innocent people in the City of Milwaukee. People like Sammy Hadaway, Daryl Dwayne Holloway, and others. The Milwaukee Police Department has been tied to similar cases and the city has been left holding the bag:
Chaunte Ott and William Avery, for instance.
Both were freed. One after six years and one after 13 years. Both won lawsuits against the city. Avery won $2 million; Ott $6.5 million.
Homicide Detectives Gilberto Hernandez and the late Detective Katherine Hein were implicated in the Avery and Ott cases.
[Among other examples of misconduct, incompetence and malfeasance was the releasing of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victim to him; convicting two men for Walter Ellis, the “Milwaukee Strangler,” murders, how Hernendez investigated the killing of Dontre Hamiltion and exonerated the police killer, or Ala Awadalla, who wrote the report on the likely murder gun, later arrested for planting evidence on innocent people, and many more.]
Suppressed Ballistic Testing
There is more evidence the State of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee PD likely are withholding.
For instance, the Wisconsin crime lab initially reported the gun used to murder the two men was a 9mm Luger with shells with a right-hand twist and six grooves.
The police found a gun with the same characteristics during the arrest of Ronald Terry mentioned earlier, whose DNA matched some of the DNA that was found at the murder house.
Detective Hernandez wrote in a report that the crime lab should test Terry’s gun, for it might match the murder gun. At Paine’s trial, the State’s ballistic expert, Mark Simonson, told the jury that the police never gave him a gun to test.
Missing Recordings Raise Concerns
Yet Frank Report learned Simonson’s name is purportedly on a document showing he tested the gun. The serial numbers are blacked out. The report is incomplete, and it was never shared with the defense.
Another peculiar thing is that Detectives Hernandez and Hein interrogated Paine at least half a dozen times for up to eight hours each time. They claim they did not record their interrogations.
In the Avery case, Hernandez said he confessed to the murder during an interrogation. Avery denied he confessed. There was, conveniently, no recording.
Allegations of Framing and Dirty Cops
Who would the jury believe – a homicide detective or a black man with a criminal record?
Later, when DNA evidence proved Avery was innocent, Hernandez still tried to keep Avery in prison. This time, a civil jury did not believe Hernandez and Avery won $2 million.
Lawrence Paine’s DNA was not at the crime scene. Two men (both alleged gang members and drug dealers) said he did it, and the State discredited Paine’s alibi that he was at a strip club by hiding the surveillance tape.
Paine, through his lawyers, recently filed a motion for a new trial. The State filed for an extension to review George Donald’s testimony.
The State, confronted with the suppressed video, will see Donald lied about Paine being all night at the murder house. It might come out that Donald was one of four men who threatened Sherika Ray, who lived below the murder house, who said from what she heard, the motive for the murders was robbery.
The amount of drugs and cash might have been significant. According to some who know the nature of that business, the street value might have been more than $100,000.
The DNA found at the murder house tied all four men who threatened Ray to the murder.
The apparent murder gun was found on one of the four men – a gun strangely claimed not to have been tested.
And Paine’s DNA was not found.
So why would Detectives Hernandez and Hein frame an innocent man and go out of their way to exonerate likely killers and even use two of them as witnesses to railroad Paine?
What reason could there be? Utter incompetence? Laziness, combined with lack of conscience – i.e., they had the case wrapped up so why bother to find the real killer?
Or were they partners with the drug gang that did the killing?
Follow the money.
That Hernandez and Hein were dirty cops on the take is more likely than Paine being the killer.
There is no time limit for prosecuting individuals who are accessories in the commission of murder in Wisconsin.
Jolly is dead. Detective Hein is dead.
George Donald, Ronald Q. Terry, Eric Howard, Rodney Hudson, and Gilberto Hernandez are alive at last report.
Before this is over, the State may charge some of them with murder or accessory to murder.
As for Lawrence Paine, his alibi was that after he left the strip club and dropped his friend Skin off, he drove more than five hours to Minneapolis to see his seven-year-old son for Easter Sunday, 2004.
State’s Manipulation of Hotel Records Raises Serious Doubt
The State did not call the hotel clerk in Minneapolis, who checked Paine in at the hotel to testify. If they had, he would have testified that Paine likely checked in at around 8:00-8:30 am, making it almost impossible for him to commit the murders at 4 am in Milwaukee – since it is a five-hour drive.
The State called a woman who did not work for the same hotel company that owned the hotel at the time when Paine checked in. The State elicited false testimony from her that Paine could not have checked in when he claimed, since another man was in the room for at least another hour – until 9:33 am, making it possible for Paine to have committed the murders in Milwaukee and still make it to Minneapolis by 9:33 am in time to check-in.
Five years after he was convicted, Paine’s legal team found the man, Michael D. Humphrey, who checked Paine in. He signed an affidavit that said the hotel records the State used at trial showed that the man the State told the jury was in the Paine’s room until 9:33 am had left that room two nights before, and was in another room in the hotel when Paine checked in. Paine’s room was empty.
Wisconsin Prosecutors Cross the Line in Pursuit of Convictions
In Wisconsin, they often quote the late Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi, who said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
But Wisconsin prosecutors take this much too far. Playing football and playing with men’s freedom is not the same.
During the early morning hours when Paine supposedly murdered two men because he was angry about what one of them said about where he parked his car, he was actually in his car driving to Minneapolis.
He planned to see his seven-year-old son on Easter, the following day. He had a blessed few weeks with him before returning to Milwaukee and being held for a murder he did not commit.
Time moves on – and his son, who saw his dad when he was seven, is now 26.
It was 19 years, two months, and six days since Paine’s mother lost her son – on Mother’s Day, and since the son knew his father as a free man.
But we’re gonna change that.
Lawrence Paine will be freed.