I-Team: Inmate awaits new trial, claims innocence

LAS VEGAS - A federal judge ruled in March Jemar Matthews should be retried for murder or released from prison because there was prosecutorial misconduct during his trial.

Matthews was convicted of murder and other felony charges in 2007.

Twenty-two-year-old Mercy Williams was gunned down in front of a friend's home in North Las Vegas. Her cousin was shot but survived.

Reporter Vanessa Williams: "Did you kill Mercy Williams?"

Jemar Matthews: "No, ma'am. The truth is I had nothing to do with it and that's all I could stand on and have faith that God is gonna see my through that."

A federal judge ruled in March Matthews' rights were violated during the murder trial after years of appeals.

"It's like someone finally seen what I was saying the whole time," Matthews said.

The 30-year-old man is serving life with the possibility of parole at High Desert State Prison in southern Nevada.

The I-Team talked with him by phone at his attorney, Todd Leventhal's office.

"I have always remained steadfast in helping him and doing everything I could because I did believe him," said Todd Leventhal, defense attorney.

Federal Judge Gloria Navarro pointed to prosecutorial conduct.

Former prosecutor Linda Lewis told jurors in reference to Matthews and his co-defendant: "How innocent do they look to you?"

It's standard during criminal trials for defendants to ditch clothes worn in prison for nicer clothing. Lewis said, 

"Look at these two defendants. What, you think they walk around the street wearing those white shirts and ties? Come on."

The jury was all white.

"That whole closing argument was just for a black and white issue," Leventhal said. "For African-American versus white. That's all is was about. There couldn't be any other explanation for that comment, none whatsoever."

Judge Navarro also pointed to weakness in the state's case and how there was no direct physical evidence placing Matthews at the scene of the deadly shooting or an auto theft that followed.

Turns out the murder suspects led police on a chase after a carjacking. Pierre Joshlin was found with a gun connected to the crime but that's where circumstantial evidence for Matthews comes in. He was found in the neighborhood hiding in a yard and an officer identifed Matthews as one of the suspects.

He did have a criminal history and was hiding he says because he had a restraining order from a woman at a nearby home.

"I was running," Matthews said. "I was scared. I didn't want to go to jail."

Now Matthews has been locked up for more than a decade. And even after the federal judge's ruling, the Clark County District Attorney plans on retrying him.

"A jury found him guilty so we plan to retry him," said Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson. "You know a judge found that the prosecutor's comments were inappropriate. We accept that so we'll retry him again."

A new trial is scheduled for early September. 

"Somebody died. We believe he played a role in this so we're going to take it back in front of a jury," Wolfson said. "I have not been presented with any information to suggest he's innocent."

Wolfson doesn't believe Matthews will walk out of prison anytime soon.

"I don't have no faith in the justice system at all," Matthews said.

The former prosecutor Linda Lewis is now a librarian at a school in Henderson. She could not be reached for comment, but a coworker told the I-Team she's off for the summer in Mexico.

"Able to live her life and watch her kids grow while I have to sit in a dirty cell? Matthews said. "When someone tells me when to eat, sleep and use the restroom?"

He says, he has a daughter he saw about a month ago and a son he hasn't seen since before he was locked up.

Matthews' co-defendant is also in prison. The federal judge noted there was more significant evidence against him.


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