17-year-old sentenced to life in prison exonerated 20 years later. ‘I was relentless’

For nearly 19 years, Marvin Haynes lived his life in prison after he was convicted of first-degree murder as a teen. Now, he’s been exonerated and is a free man.

“A lot of people neglected me when I was trying to tell my story and put it out there, people didn’t want to listen to it. But I was relentless,” Haynes said at a Dec. 11 news conference streamed by KSTP, after his life sentence was overturned and he was released.

In 2005, Haynes was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the 2004 shooting death of 55-year-old Randy Sherer, the Star Tribune reported.

Sherer was working at a flower shop when he was shot and killed during an armed robbery, KMSP reported.

Minneapolis police got a tip, which ultimately led them to arrest Haynes, who was 16 years old at the time, according to the news outlet.

At the time, detectives told Haynes they found fingerprints, DNA and surveillance footage linking him to the crime scene, but he thought, “it’s impossible,” the Star Tribune reported.

Haynes was sentenced to life in prison the following year, at 17 years old.

“I wasn’t there,” Haynes, 35, said in a courtroom full of supporters in November, according to the outlet. “I’m innocent, 100 percent.”

Despite what detectives told Haynes, there was actually no physical evidence linking him to the crime, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement.

“Mr. Haynes’ conviction rested almost exclusively on eyewitness identification. There was no forensic evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA. There was no video connecting him to the crime. The murder weapon was never recovered,” Moriarty said.

Over the years, Haynes maintained his innocence, and so did his family, fighting for his story to be told, according to the Star Tribune. Haynes’ four sisters testified that he was at home asleep when the shooting took place, the outlet reported.

“If it wasn’t for my sister and the Innocence Project, I wouldn’t be here. ...My sister lost so much trying to fight for me to get innocence. Like, she neglected herself in the process of me getting my life back,” Haynes said.

Marvin Haynes cried and hugged his sister Marvina Haynes, also shedding tears, as he expressed his gratitude toward her.

“When Minneapolis police took Marvin from our family, it really caused a lot of harm,” Marvina Haynes said during the news conference. “Our family had been trying to get Marvin’s story out for 19 years. Why does it take so much time for an innocent man?”

The Great North Innocence Project worked to prove Marvin Haynes’ innocence and help get his conviction overturned. An order was signed Dec. 11 by Judge William Koch for Haynes to be “promptly released” from the Stillwater prison, according to KSTP.

“To Marvin Haynes: You lost the opportunity to graduate from high school, attend prom, have relationships, attend weddings and funerals, and be with your family during holidays. For that, I am so deeply sorry. And for that, I commit to correcting other injustices and to making sure that we do not participate in making our own,” Moriarty said.

Haynes said he is grateful and happy people now know of his innocence. He said the first thing he will do after being released is go see his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in three years.

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