News and Tribune

June 8, 2011

Charges dismissed against two charged with Indy murder

Local attorney: ‘I never doubted their innocence’

By MATT THACKER
Matt.Thacker@newsandtribune.com

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Murder charges have been dropped against two men for an Indianapolis murder.

Kelvin Martin, 21, and Michael Guy, 23, were arrested April 7, 2010 in Battle Creek, Mich., and remained in jail until May 29 of this year after the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office agreed to drop the murder charges against them.

According to court records, Andrew Rhea, 19, was murdered at 6 p.m. on March 11, 2009 during a robbery. A plasma television was stolen during the robbery.

During an investigation, Craig Harris, now 23, admitted his involvement in the crime and said he had two accomplices. He said one person who he only knew as “Calvin” was the shooter. Shortly after the murder, Harris’ girlfriend said she overheard Martin the day after the murder saying he was the one who shot Rhea.

Harris later identified Martin and Harris from a phone line-up. Harris pleaded guilty in January 2010 to murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison in exchange for testifying against Martin and Guy.

“I never doubted their innocence,” said Jeffersonville attorney Jennifer Culotta, who was hired to represent them. “These are two great guys.”

Culotta said Martin and Guy had no criminal record despite growing up in a rough area in Indianapolis, and one was actually helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity the day of the shooting. She said both attended a birthday party for one of Guy’s relatives in Battle Creek the evening of the shooting.

Culotta said Rodney Cummings, who was the prosecutor originally handling the case until he was became Madison County prosecutor at the beginning of this year, did not disclose information that showed her clients were innocent.

Cummings told the News and Tribune that officers followed Martin and Guy to Michigan shortly after the shooting, and he had statements from Harris and his girlfriend. He said he was “shocked” when informed the charges were dropped.

“I can’t imagine this case is dismissed,” Cummings said. “If that was still my case, there would have been a jury trial. I suspect strongly they would have been convicted.”

Brienne Delaney, communications director for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, said the two men were charged based on the best evidence they had available at the time.

“New evidence came to light over a period of months. Finally, we felt like we couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.

According to the motion to dismiss, prosecutors discovered a letter written to Harris by his girlfriend “that called into question his motive for identifying Defendant Martin as one of the accomplices.” The defense later discovered a letter from another man claiming Harris said he framed Martin and Guy to protect the identities of the real accomplices.

It was also disclosed in February of this year that several interviews were conducted in August 2010 from witnesses claiming Martin and Guy were at the birthday party. The state conducted taped statements of seven witnesses on May 2, 2011. All claimed Martin and Guy were at the party the night of the shooting and had moved from Indiana to Michigan in February 2009, a month before the murder.

A grocery store owner in Battle Creek also claimed Martin visited his store that night.

Culotta said the men had also lived in the same apartment complex, and she believes Martin and Guy were framed because the mother of one of the men had made various complaints against the accusers. She said Harris and his girlfriend were unaware the two had moved.

The two men were released two days after the charges were dismissed and were picked up by their families. Culotta said they will try to restart their lives.