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Prosecutors vacate 1992 conviction through Innocence Project partnership

A man who spent 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit was released Tuesday after a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge vacated his conviction at the request of prosecutors.

Clarence Shipley was convicted in 1992 of killing Kevin Smith, 29, in a robbery in the Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill the previous year, according to a news release from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

Shipley became a suspect after someone arrested for several car thefts said Shipley had been in the area at the time of the murder. An eyewitness identified Shipley in a photo lineup. That same witness had previously told police the shooter was a man named Larry Davis, but was shown a picture of a different Larry Davis than he meant.

Shipley has maintained his innocence since his arrest, but police did not investigate his alibi or follow up on tips about a different Larry Davis as the shooter, according to the release. He was convicted based on the witness testimony, despite presenting alibi witnesses and testimony that the shooter was right-handed. Shipley is left-handed.

After his conviction was upheld, Shipley’s family hired an investigator who developed evidence supporting his case and presented it to the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic and Office of the Public Defender.

The clinic students and a Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project investigator worked on the case for four years and presented it to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit. The CIU investigated and developed new witnesses that proved Shipley’s innocence.

“Clarence Shipley’s case is yet another example of why it is so important for prosecutors to take innocence claims seriously, Michele Nethercott, director of the UB clinic, said in a statement. “Without a real Conviction Integrity Unit to collaborate with me on this case, Clarence would be spending the rest of his life in prison for something he didn’t do.”

The CIU investigator was funded by a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Justice last year to support the CIU and Innocence Project.

Shipley is the second man exonerated by the CIU and Innocence Project this year and the fourth freed since 2016.


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