Wisconsin Innocence Project
attorneys filed a motion for a new trial for a Milwaukee man convicted of murder, based on evidence of police misconduct. Steven Hopgood was convicted of felony murder in the 2010 attempted robbery and deadly shooting of Vincent Cort, and sentenced to 17 years behind bars. Another man, Laquan Riley, was convicted of actually shooting Cort, while Hopgood was said to have provided the weapon used in the crime.
The Associated Press reported that Hopgood’s lawyers have asked for his conviction to be overturned, saying a police officer who was recently fired amid allegations of misconduct in another case planted a bullet to frame Hopgood. In Monday’s filing, the Wisconsin Innocence Project said that during the investigation, Milwaukee detective Rodolfo Gomez claimed that he found the bullet in the victim’s car, which supported testimony of an incentivized informant who testified that he was witness to Hopgood, Riley and a third man committing the crime. Gomez was fired last year for beating a handcuffed suspect and charged with misconduct in office and acting with excessive authority. The motion continued:
“. . . as a new expert analysis shows, the bullet is in a pristine condition entirely inconsistent with having been fired through a person’s body and ricocheting in a car,” they wrote. “As described further below, the new expert analysis strongly supports the view that Gomez planted the bullet. While typically such claims of police misconduct would be difficult to sustain, in this case they are not, because of Gomez’s recent conduct in this and other cases.”
According to court documents, in June 2010 Cort was getting into his car after a stop at a liquor store when Riley walked up to him and shot him. For two years, there were no breaks in the case until a drug suspect identified the trio for a $10,000 reward and the hope of leniency in his own case. The alleged witness testified that he saw Hopgood give Riley the gun that was used to kill Cort. Gomez said that he also saw Hopgood hand Riley the weapon.
Gomez’s discovery of what a forensic expert determined to be a pristine bullet was the only physical evidence against Hopgood. Drug charges against the informant were dropped after he gave testimony in court.
A spokesperson at the Milwaukee Police Department said he was looking into the case.