Indiana's appeals court has overturned the murder conviction of a Gary man sentenced last year to 115 years in prison for a fatal shooting at a gas station.
The 2-1 decision released Wednesday overturned Marquis D. Young's murder conviction and his convictions on two counts of attempted murder, citing a lack of evidence. A Lake County jury convicted Young, 31, in the shooting that killed Dion Clayton, 27, and wounded two other men.
But Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the state appeals court that the key evidence linking Young to the shooting was a cigarette butt police found in a well-trafficked alley near the Gary gas station two days after the May 2020 shooting.
Vaidik noted police could not confirm whether the cigarette butt, which had Young’s DNA on it, was the same cigarette seen on security video being discarded by a person with an appearance potentially similar to Young around the time of the shooting.
“The evidence in this case comes nowhere close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore reverse Young’s convictions," she wrote.
Appeals Judge Terry Crone dissented, writing that Young repeatedly challenged the prosecution’s case but a jury nevertheless unanimously concluded he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Young’s attorney argued at trial that prosecutors were pinning the case on a “magic cigarette.”
The attorney general’s office can ask the Indiana Supreme Court to consider reviewing the Court of Appeals decision and reinstating Young’s convictions.