Marvin Haynes was released from Stillwater prison on Monday, December 11, after nearly 20 years behind bars due to a wrongful conviction in the 2004 murder of Randy Sherer, who was working in his family’s North Minneapolis flower shop.
Haynes, who was 16 years old at the time, was convicted based on the eyewitness testimony of Sherer’s sister, even though Haynes had a different hairstyle and was significantly shorter and thinner than how she described the killer. Haynes maintained his innocence the entire time he was incarcerated. There was no physical evidence linking Haynes to the crime scene.
Hennepin County Judge William Koch vacated Haynes’s conviction in court on Monday, with Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty saying that Haynes’s constitutional rights had been violated. An order signed by Koch stated that “absent introduction of the unconstitutional eyewitness identification evidence, it is doubtful there would have been sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.” Moriarty released a statement Monday and called Haynes’s conviction a “great injustice.”
“We inflicted harm on Mr. Haynes and his family, and also on Harry Sherer, the victim, his family, and the community,” Moriarty said.
Rep. Cedrick Frazier of New Hope issued a statement saying he was pleased that justice was given to Haynes.
“[Haynes’s] wrongful conviction exposed the devastating consequences of systemic racism and biased practices within the justice system, particularly for Black men,” Frazier said in his statement. “Mr. Haynes’ wrongful conviction robbed him of years of freedom and inflicted irreparable harm on his loved ones and community. This case compels us to confront the stark realities of how systemic racism and biased policies can contribute to injustices like this one. It serves as a stark call to action to dismantle any system that will not ensure a just and equitable future for all.”
Haynes worked with lawyers from the Great Northern Innocence Project (GN-IP) to secure his freedom. The GN-IP has had ten other convictions overturned in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The Innocence Project called Haynes’s case a “quintessential example of how flawed eyewitness identifications and problematic police lineup procedures lead to wrongful convictions.”
Haynes and his family, along with his legal team, held a press conference outside the Hennepin County courthouse after he was released. Haynes thanked those who had supported him during his time in prison.
“I’m so excited to see my family. It’s been years since I’ve seen a lot of them,” Haynes said. “I haven’t seen my mom in like three or four years since she had her stroke. So that’s been difficult to deal with, to go through this and not being able to see them. It’s been a struggle. But I’m just glad I’m here.”
Marvina Haynes, Marvin’s sister, laughed with elation as she approached the microphone at the press conference.
“I’m filled with joy. My heart couldn’t be happier,” Marvina said. “After this, we’re going to go visit my mom. She’s going to be very happy to see my brother.”
Andrew Markquart, one of Haynes’s lawyers from GN-IP, said he was “thrilled’” to see Haynes released. Markquart said he admired Haynes and could not wait to see the next chapter in Haynes’s life.
“This is someone who has every right in the world to be bitter, to be angry. But he’s not,” Markquart said of Haynes. “And he carries himself with this remarkable sense of hope and positivity that is so admirable.
“This year he’s going to get to spend Christmas with his family, and it’s going to be a very merry Christmas,” Markquart said.