On 8/01/2012, Inter-State Investigative Services, Inc. began working on a case in conjunction with the Arizona Justice Project for client Brandon Jordan. Mr. Jordan, who had been charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault in 2005, maintained his innocence for over eight years, and after spending 3034 days wrongfully incarcerated, he was released on December 4, 2013.
This wasn’t one of those fancy cases where experts with degrees and specialties in hard sciences were needed to clinch Mr. Jordan’s freedom. Nope, this was one of those good old fashioned cases where good investigative work, made the prosecution see that the case didn’t add up.
The case boiled down to this:
At 6:28 pm on January 22, 2004, a police chase in Coolidge, Arizona ensued… and it ended with the suspect ditching the car, fleeing across a field, and escaping apprehension. The officer who chased the suspect collected into evidence a blue sweatshirt, a baggy of weed, and a 9mm gun.
On the same day, at 6:54 pm, shots were fired at two men outside a home in Randolph, Arizona (5 miles down the road from Coolidge). At 6:55 p.m. the police were called. A neighbor who was leaving the area put the two victims in his car and drove them to the hospital as they were bleeding quickly from the gun shots. One man died and the other survived.
Nobody was arrested for over a year. Then, in the summer of 2005, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office filed 1st degree murder charges against Brandon Jordan. Their evidence? (1) Firearm analysis which “matched” the gun collected in the Coolidge police chase to the shell casings at the Randolph shooting. (2) DNA testing on the blue sweatshirt produced a mixture of partial profiles, one of which included Brandon Jordan as a possible donor.
The PROBLEM that no Pinal County Detective noticed, nor attorney (prosecution or defense) challenged was that the gun allegedly used in this shooting was collected 26 minutes BEFORE the shooting occurred. Yet, the State maintained this was the gun that fired the fatal shots and tied Brandon Jordan to the gun through the sweatshirt collected with the gun – and the mixed DNA profile on the sweatshirt from which Brandon could not be excluded.
The surviving victim, a known drug dealer, under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the shooting and told three different versions of what occurred. The prosecutor made a deal – after Jordan had been tossed around like a rag doll to four different attorneys – all of whom had to conflict out because they had previously represented the victims in prior criminal matters. The 1st degree murder charge was amended to manslaughter and the second count was aggravated assault, the sentences would run together. If Jordan went to trial and was convicted, he would be looking at approximately 40 years. The plea offer took that risk down to 10-13 years. Jordan accepted the plea, but prior to sentencing wrote to the judge asking to withdraw. His request was denied and he was sentenced to 12 years.
The Arizona Justice Project accepted the case in 2011 and in 2012 filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. With the help of Investigator’s Sylvia Sander and Randy Downer at Inter-State Investigative Services in Tucson, AZ, a serious case re-investigation began. This investigation included tracking down a crucial witness who the police never followed up with and who was the only person who could coherently put the pieces of the puzzle together.
The investigation also included locating and interviewing a retired Pinal County Deputy who was woken up by investigators and interviewed one morning while still in his pajamas.
After almost a year and a half of research, interviews and timeline reconstruction, a resolution was reached: Jordan’s no contest plea to the manslaughter and aggravated assault charges remained but he was re-sentenced to a mitigated term of 9 years (time served)….Which allowed him immediate release from incarceration and allowed him to move on without the threat of looming prosecution.
On the final day of court for Mr. Jordan, with his family members present, tears streamed down his face as he secured his freedom and was able to walk out of the courtroom a free man. Mr. Jordan was just shy of his thirty-third birthday.