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Motions favor convicted teen

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Convicted robber Erick Daniels won another break last week when Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ordered the Durham Police Department to turn over evidence that could clear Daniels' name.

In response to a motion filed earlier this month by defense attorney Carlos Mahoney, Hudson ordered the Durham Police Department to turn over the fingerprints of Samuel Strong; he is a convicted bank robber tied by circumstantial evidence and a possible confession to a Durham home invasion. Hudson also ordered police to provide prints lifted from the crime scene for comparison with Strong's prints. Police failed to look into Strong's possible role in the robbery during the investigation that led to Daniels' arrest.

In another order, Hudson granted permission for Mahoney to take sworn testimony from Strong at Williamsburg Federal Correctional Institution in Salters, S.C., where Strong is serving a 14-year sentence for bank robbery.

Assistant District Attorney Mitch Garrell, who is handling the case for the state, did not object to Mahoney's move to seek the new evidence. "If Mahoney thinks those actions are appropriate, they need to be done so we can move along with the case," Garrell says. Garrell ran for Durham District Attorney earlier this year and in his campaign promised to work for justice in wrongful conviction cases.

Mahoney is gathering evidence in preparation for a Sept. 18 hearing at which Hudson is expected to decide whether Daniels deserves a new jury trial. At that hearing, Mahoney will also argue that Daniels' original trial attorney, Robert Harris, provided ineffective representation, and that former assistant district attorney Freda Black withheld evidence that could have exonerated Daniels.

In 2001, a jury convicted Daniels of robbing and burglarizing the home of Ruth Brown, a police department employee; a judge sentenced Daniels to 10 to 14 years in prison. Prosecutor Black won the case without incriminating physical evidence, relying instead on the victim's eyewitness testimony, which evidence suggests was flawed. Daniels, who was 14 at the time of the robbery and 15 at trial, has always maintained his innocence. A 2007 investigation by the Independent, "Stolen youth," supported Daniels' claims.

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