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Shareef Cousin


Exoneree Name

State: Louisiana

Convicted: 1996

Exonerated: 1999

Race: Black

DNA used in exoneration? No

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Mistaken witness identification

Police misconduct

Prosecutorial misconduct

 


Shareef's Wrongful Conviction

Shareef Cousin spent three years on death row in Louisiana for a crime he did not commit. Shareef was 16 at the time of the crime and 17 when he was sentenced to death, making him the youngest person ever sent to death row in Louisiana. Shareef’s conviction in the murder of Michael Gerardi, largely rested on the eyewitness testimony of Gerardi’s girlfriend, even though she testified she was not wearing her glasses or contacts at the scene.

Shareef maintained he had an airtight alibi – he was actually filmed at a city recreation department basketball game around the time of the crime, and his coach even testified that he had dropped him off at home just 20 minutes after the murder.

But it was later revealed that a detective, who said he had two eyewitnesses to the murder that positively identified Shareef, had lied to get a warrant. Also, another witness testified that the prosecutor, Roger Jordan, had told him to perjure himself on the stand and claim Shareef bragged that he committed the murder, in exchange for a lesser sentence the witness was facing for an unrelated armed robbery.

In 1998, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered a new trial on the grounds that evidence in the case had been mishandled and improperly used. A few months later, the district attorney of Jefferson County Parish decided to drop the case, citing any lack of evidence to pursue it further. In 2005, Roger Jordan was disciplined by the Louisiana Supreme Court for his misconduct in Shareef’s case.

Shareef's Work Today

Shareef still resides in New Orleans, where he is active with John Thompson’s Resurrection After Exoneration project, and working to empower other wrongfully convicted people, at-risk youth, and other marginalized communities.

He is also a member of Witness to Innocence's Justice After Exoneration Committee, where he fights for compensation for the wrongfully incarcerated.

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