Editor's Note: Six months before the robbery, Christopher was arrested (on unrelated charges) but the charges were dropped, which could explain why he was implicated in this crime. Not mentioned in Chris' account is the character witness who testified in court that she admired Chris because he had always held a job. The photos, while they are black and white and somewhat blurry, are the most telling evidence presented here. Take a look and see for yourself. What follows is Chris' account of his story. --stg
CHRISTOPHER NELSON STORY
Case account by Christopher Nelson
Edited by Stormy Thoming-Gale, JD Staff
My name is Christopher Nelson and I'm in prison for a crime I didn't commit. There were two charges, Armed Robbery and Possession of a Felony Firearm. I got two years for the Firearm charge and 51 months to 10 years for the Armed Robbery charge. That's a lot of time to get for a crime I didn't commit. As you can see, there is a picture of me and one of the robbery in progress. The other two pictures are of the person I have determined to be the real robber. The real robber doesn't have a prior police record so his picture wasn't included in the photo lineup that the detective on the case showed to the victim.
Christopher Nelson at home.
Close-Up of Christopher's face.
Robbery In Progress
Photo of the man Christopher alleges to be the real robber.
I've been writing the judge, the detective and the prosecutor to let them know who the real robber is and they all said, "Without a confession from him the case is closed." The chief of police wrote a nasty letter to my mom. I have even written to Montel Williams.
The detective on the case withheld evidence. The picture of the robber you see here wasn't shown during my trial.
The jury asked if I was right handed or left handed. They also asked for a magnifying glass. The robber used his left hand throughout the whole robbery -- before and after the gun was produced. The jury asked for a magnifying glass because they wanted the picture enhanced, just as I did.
My attorney was paid but incompetent. He couldn't even see the cigarette in the robber's right hand. I don't smoke and a lung test will prove that. (Editor's note: An X-ray of Christopher's lungs could indeed prove that he does not and has not smoked for the last seven years, but that needs to be done soon to prove his innocence.)
My attorney of record, Cleophus Clup, was an ex-cop in Jackson, MI. He has access to the Jackson Police force crime lab, but went to Meyers to enhance a photo and made it blurrier than it already was. I feel that he had a lack of interest in my case and a lack of knowledge about Armed Robbery cases. He didn't show the pictures to either my defense team or the prosecutors. The only picture of the robbery that was in evidence was the one my lawyer tried to enhance. The rest of the pictures the detective had and didn't give up. It took me to point out that he withheld evidence.
My lawyer completely messed up my witness and alibi list. He took off three key people and then said it was too late to add them. In fact, I do have an alibi. I was working at the Burger King about two blocks away from my friend's house. I got off work at 8:00 P.M. that night and walked to my friend's house. I called my mom at around 9:30 P.M. that night from my friend's house and asked her to pick me up. She did. We drove about a mile and a half to the Taco Bell and ordered. We both got home at around 10:15 or so that night. The store was being robbed at 10:00. The suspect was in the store at 9:30 that night and "hung around until the 10:00 closing". My friend and his mother testified that I was at their house at 9:30 to after 10:00 that night. There were other witnesses willing to testify who never got a chance.
When the detective approached me April 1, 2000, at my home he said that my nose looks enough like the real robber to be me and then he said my fingerprints were on a condom wrapper touched during the robbery. Come to find out, there weren't any fingerprints on any condom wrapper. The detective made that up. The robber even grabbed the cash register and the police never checked it for fingerprints. I have a witness who can verify that Detective Gary Schuette said my nose looked enough like the real robber and my fingerprints were on the condom wrapper touched during the robbery.
The police report said that the robber was 180-200 lbs. The victim saw me in court and said he never said that. The victim said the police report was false. He said during the preliminary hearing that the robber could be a thinner guy.
The victim stayed two houses away from me for two years and was not 100% sure that it was me who robbed the store. When my attorney questioned him about that he said one time, "I can't remember," one time, "I couldn't tell you," five times he said, "I don't know," three times, "not exactly" and five times, "wasn't sure." This all sounds like a very unsure man. That was two months after the robbery happened, but 7 months later, he could remember exact details. I think he was coached but we can't prove it.
When we watched the videotape of the robbery in trial (my first time seeing it) the victim said loudly and clearly "I don't remember this being on the tape." Right before that the prosecutor asked him if there were any changes or tampering in the videotape since the last time he'd seen it. He said no. What the victim didn't remember being on the tape was that the tape shut off for 8 to 10 seconds. It cut off when the robber handed the clerk something and 8 to 10 seconds later it came back on and the robber pulled a gun out and robbed the place. That's tampering with evidence, plain and simple.
The prosecutor said [that] I used my big brother's ID to get into the store I weigh 130 lbs. And my brother is 120 lbs. The store that was robbed is an adult bookstore. You have to be 18 to enter and I was only 17 at the time of the robbery. (Editor's note: It has not been proven that Chris used his brother's ID or any other fake ID for that matter.)
After the jury asked for more evidence, my lawyer pointed out that the detective withheld evidence. The jury returned with a guilty verdict. My family and I were in shock.
After my conviction I used the Freedom of Information Act and obtained photos of the robber off of the videotape. I asked around and found out who he really is. I have a 3 inch scar on the left side of my nose and if the video tape of the robbery (the original one) was in my hands I would blow up the photo correctly and point out that my scar, which has been there for over 5 years and is visible from at least 5 feet away, is not there on the robber. The real robber is bigger than I am and I also noticed that his shoe size is bigger than mine is.
Why am I still in prison? I don't know. By using the Freedom of Information Act I found out more information in 30 days than my attorney did in 8 months of representing me. That's a shame isn't it? Why does an 18 year-old man have to be a detective and investigate his own case?
By the way, I am right handed, and I would like to know how long the tar and nicotine stay in a person's system. I want my lungs checked out because that will prove that I have never smoked and it will prove me innocent and that the prosecutor lied.
Christopher D. Nelson #302643
Michigan Training Unit
P.O. Box 492
1728 Bluewater Highway
Ionia, MI 48846
© Justice Denied