State agrees accomplice statement should be tossed, leaving Madison murder case foundering

February 2, 2019

The first-degree murder case against a man for a mistaken-identity shooting homicide two years ago and the related prosecution of a key witness appear to be foundering after prosecutors said Friday that they no longer have sufficient evidence to try the cases.

In a court document filed Friday, Dane County Assistant District Attorney Gerise Laspisa said that without cooperation from Dontae Collins, prosecutors no longer have enough evidence to try either Collins or Jordan Sharlow, 27, of Madison, for the March 1, 2017, shooting death of David D. Edwards on Madison’s East Side. Sharlow is charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

Edwards, 31, was shot at the Mobil gas station at 3019 E. Washington Ave., but managed to drive about three miles before he crashed into the Comfort Inn and Suites, 4822 E. Washington Ave.

“While the state believes that Collins and Sharlow are responsible for the homicide of (Edwards), currently we do not have sufficient evidence to meet our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Laspisa wrote. She asked Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky to dismiss the cases against Collins and Sharlow without prejudice, giving police an opportunity to continue their investigation so that charges could be re-filed at a later date.

Collins, 32, of Madison, who is charged with aiding or harboring a felon, told police that he was with Sharlow when Sharlow shot Edwards. According to a criminal complaint, he told police that Sharlow had mistaken Edwards for another man, Riccardo Simms, who five months later would be shot to death.

But about two weeks ago, Collins’ lawyer, David Makovec, filed a motion to suppress Collins’ statement to police, which Collins gave after seeking immunity. Police continued their interview with Collins without acknowledging Collins’ request for a lawyer, and he made his incriminating statement, Makovec wrote.

In her response filed Friday, Laspisa agreed that the statement should be suppressed. She wrote that the harboring charge against Collins was filed based on Collins’ willingness to cooperate in the case against Sharlow. Now that he is no longer cooperating, she wrote, he claims that his statement was made in violation of his Miranda rights against self-incrimination.

While prosecutors believe the statement to have been made voluntarily, Laspisa wrote, the state “has come to the conclusion that defendant invoked his right to remain silent and right to an attorney numerous times and therefore, does not contest defendant’s motion to suppress.”

However, while prosecutors have evidence that corroborates Collins’ statement, Laspisa wrote, “without the statement the evidence is insufficient to meet the state’s burden at trial and thus, the state is unable to proceed.”

The case against Sharlow, she wrote, depends on Collins, and without Collins’ statement, there’s no leverage to force Collins to testify against Sharlow. Without that testimony, she wrote, “the state cannot proceed against Sharlow as there is insufficient evidence to meet our burden at trial.”

On Jan. 22, Karofsky turned down a request by Laspisa to dismiss the case against Sharlow without prejudice so that Sharlow could be transported to Chicago to face a homicide charge there with his brother, Justin Sharlow, and another man, Melvin Dotson.

Justin Sharlow, 26, is charged in Cook County Court with the Oct. 15, 2017, shooting death of 22-year-old Devon Caffie. Laspisa said prosecutors in Cook County told her that Jordan Sharlow would be indicted once he is sent there.

Sharlow’s lawyer, Mark Frank, did not oppose the motion. Frank has filed motions asking that Jordan Sharlow be allowed to present evidence that others — among them Justin Sharlow and Collins — may have committed Edwards’ murder.

Karofsky denied Laspisa’s motion, telling her that she did not understand how it was in the public’s interest to send Jordan Sharlow to Chicago when the case against him here was ready for trial. She said she would consider the motion again at a later date.

Motion hearings are set for Collins and Sharlow on Feb. 7.

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