Supporters hold fundraiser for ‘wrongfully jailed’ man

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In December of 1996, after being chained to a table for several hours, with no attorney or family present, Da’Ron Cox confessed to shooting Brian Roberts on Fleury Way in Homewood days earlier.

“I shot him in the chest five times,” the confession reads.

Daron
STILL INCARCERATED—Da’Ron Cox, shown here in a 2002 photo with from left, mother Robyn Cox, sister Ebony Bailey and grandmother Evelyn Cox, thanked supporters for a July 15 benefit concert.

There’s only one problem with that. According to the coroner’s report, Robert was shot in the back. One witness, Raishai Smith, said Cox was at the scene of the shooting. Three others said not only wasn’t Cox there, Smith wasn’t either. And one of those identified a different person as the shooter.

Unfortunately for Cox, two incompetent lawyers failed to interview all the witnesses and missed deadlines to present exculpatory evidence. As a result, his confession stands, and he sits in state prison 15 years later.

Rick Morris, a filmmaker from King of Prussia, Pa. and executive director of the Da’Ron Cox legal fund, said the struggle continues.

“When we presented that information to the second attorney he had 60 days to file it with the court, he took 62,” said Morris. “The prosecutors said they didn’t have to look at it. But that law was just changed to a year, so I’m looking to see if it can help.”

Morris had also filed a federal Habeas Corpus writ seeking Da’Ron’s release, but he has no idea when or if the court will hear it. Until recently Morris had been funding the legal battle himself, but said that has become untenable, so he and the family sponsored a Concert For Justice at Jergels Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, July 15.

“It went very well,” he said. “The band, Artistree, was great. We had a silent auction. And we raised more than $2,000. Every bit helps.

Cox’s mother, Robyn, was very grateful for the support.

“We had a great crowd, and I had a good time on the dance floor,” she said.

She said after 15 years, it is not any easier dealing with her son’s incarceration.

“The hardest part is visiting him, and then having to leave him behind knowing he didn’t do it,” she said. “If he had done it, it would still be bad, but it would be him paying the price. It still hurts, it hurts a lot.”

She said she got a little choked up when she read a letter Cox wrote thanking Jergels and everyone who attended the event:

“Thank you for your support. I hope you have a great time and make sure my mom busts a couple of dance moves. It takes a lot of bricks to keep a man incarcerated, but a lot of people have helped me and we are dismantling the wall one brick at a time. I have faith, and a belief that the wall will come down.

“Today your public display of love and support represents the removal of one more section of the wall that stands between me and the chance to become a free contributing member of society. Thank you for your prayers and for coming to Jergels”

For more information on the fight to free Da’Ron Cox and to watch a reenactment of the 1996 shooting narrated by actor John Canada Terrell, go to http://www.daroncox.org.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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