Shareef Cousin spent three years on death row in Louisiana for the murder of Alred Michael Gerardi in a street robbery outside a French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans. 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 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 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.
Listen to Shareef on NPR's Talk of the Nation: "Getting Off Death Row".