innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


In June 1994, Cedric Willis, who was then 19 years old, was arrested in
Jackson, Mississippi for two crimes: first for accosting a couple in their
driveway as they retuned home late at night and raping the wife and robbing
the husband and shooting him in the leg; and second for, five days after the
rape, robbing a family (the Whites) at gunpoint in their driveway as they
returned home and shooting the father of the family, Carl White Jr., in the
leg. Cedric Willis was arrested and charged with all of these crimes
(including by then, the capital murder of Carl White Jr. as he had died from
his wounds). All of the victims gave similar descriptions of the
perpetrator and ballistics testing showed the same gun was used in both
crimes. All of the victims identified Cedric Willis from a never-disclosed
photo array and then later in line ups.

The same gun was also used in at least 3 other armed robberies committed
within a 2-hour time frame of the murder of Carl White Jr. in which the
robbery victims were shot in the leg, but none of those victims would
identify Cedric Willis as the perpetrator.

A year after Cedric's arrest, DNA testing performed on the rape kit taken
from the rape victim revealed a male profile that did not match Cedric
Willis or her husband. At the insistence of the State, the kit was
re-tested and again excluded Cedric Willis as the perpetrator.

The State of Mississippi then dropped the rape charges against Cedric Willis
and re-indicted him on only the robbery of the Whites and the murder of Carl
White Jr.. The State of Mississippi then moved to prevent Cedric Willis
from being allowed to introduce the DNA test results at his armed robbery
and murder trial and the court agreed that they should be kept out. Neither
would the court allow Cedric Willis to prevent evidence of the 3 other
robberies committed with the same gun within a 2-hour time period of the
robbery of the Whites and the murder of Carl White Jr., for which Cedric
Willis had a tight alibi and in which none of the victims could identify him
and in which the police had numerous eyewitness reports describing the car
used and its occupants which in no way linked Cedric Willis to the string of

Cedric Willis was effectively forced to trial with his hands tied in 1997.
The jury, who heard only the compelling eyewitness testimony of the White
family, convicted him quickly and he was sentenced to life in prison (for
the murder of Carl White Jr.) plus ninety years in prison (thirty years each
for the robbery of each of the rest of the White family to run
consecutively). In February of this year IPNO filed an amended motion for a
new trial on Cedric Willis's behalf and finally, today a Hinds County court
granted the motion and signed an order reversing all of his convictions and
granting him a new trial on all counts.


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