Tamik Kirkland was carrying out a 2 1/2 to 4 year prison term for firearm charges. He had completed correctional programs within the institution, was enrolled in a college course and had spent a lot of time educating himself while getting ready for his release, which was just months away. His entire family was thrilled with his progress, and his daughter was happy that her "Daddy" was coming home soon. He already had employment set up on the outside, and serious plans of turning his life around. Then tragedy struck and turned his entire world upside down instead.
The Shooting of Mr. Kirkland's Mother
On April 23, 2011, the eve of Mr. Kirkland's mother's birthday, Mr. Kirkland called home attempting to be the first person to wish her a Happy Birthday. When he called home he found out that his mother was in the hospital suffering from gunshot wounds. The story was that, on April 23, 2011, a female friend had taken Mr. Kirkland's mother out for her birthday. As they pulled into the driveway of his mother's home, to end their night, the women were ambushed by a person waiting in the backyard. The shooter came out firing multiple shots into the vehicle. Both women were shot multiple times. Twenty four hours later, Mr. Kirkland, who was in a minimum security prison, with no wall or fences, walked away from the minimum security facility. In Massachusetts, since it's a minimum security prison, it's deemed a "walk away," not necessarily an escape.
Nevertheless, Mr. Kirkland was now a wanted man for walking away from the facility. He did not know what to do. So he left and went to Springfield, Massachusetts, to find out exactly what happened to his mother, hoping to see her, considering that the facility would have never let him go to the hospital to see her.
The Shooting/Murder Incident That Incarcerated Mr. Kirkland
On April 30, 2011, seven days after Mr. Kirkland's mother's incident, and while Mr. Kirkland was still out there on "escape" status, there was a fatal shooting in a barbershop in the neighborhood where Mr. Kirkland grew up. Mr. Kirkland was blamed for that murder. This was based on the false assumption that this was in retaliation for what happened to his mother. But the truth is, Mr. Kirkland did not know either of the victims in this shooting. They had nothing to do with his mother's situation. And he never had any interactions with any of them prior to, or after, his mother's incident.
Hairstyle Description of the Shooter
A barber, who was the only witness to the shooter's identity, was shot several times, along with the murdered victim, who police say was an innocent bystander. The barber, who has been a barber for over twenty years, and says he knows hair, told the police that the shooter was a black male with braids (cornrows) in his hair. The police then showed the barber an illegal photo array of eight black males for him to pick out the shooter. Of those photos of eight black males Mr. Kirkland was the only person wearing braids (cornrows) in his hair. This witness testified that when he was shown the photo array he noticed that Mr. Kirkland's photo was the only one with a person with braids in his hair. SEE THE LAWS GOVERNING THE PHOTO ARRAYS.
That very "unnecessarily suggestive" photo array was purposely put together to suggest to the barber/witness to pick out Mr. Kirkland's photo. As testimony has it, after going through the "process of elimination," that's exactly what the witness did. The barber viewed all eight photos and then put four of the eight to the side to review them (numbers 2,4,6 and 7). From those four photos, he split them again and put two aside, stating, "it was between 6 and 7." Ultimately he settled on a photo and stated, "Mainly looks like #7", which was Mr. Kirkland's photo (the only one with braids). SEE WITNESS IDENTIFICATION PROTOCOL.
The problem is, Mr. Kirkland's photo was taken in 2009, a few years before the shooting, back when he did have braids. On April 30, 2011, the day of the shooting, Mr. Kirkland had a very low haircut. On May 1, 2011, the very next day after the shooting, a private investigator brought a video camera to the hospital where Mr. Kirkland was recovering from the gunshot wounds he received from the "wrongful" police shooting to record Mr. Kirkland's condition. That video recording clearly shows Mr. Kirkland in the hospital bed, with tubes down his throat, and a very low haircut. And this is the very next day after the barbershop shooting. SEE THE HOSPITAL VIDEO.
The Court actually had photos of Mr. Kirkland posing with a female friend in the visiting room, in the facility he was being held in before he walked away. Those photos were taken on April 22, 2011, eight days before the shooting, and clearly shows that Mr. Kirkland had a very low haircut. His hair was way too short to have grown long enough to have been braided into cornrows in just eight days, especially with him being a black male whose hair does not grow fast. SEE APRIL 22, 2011 PHOTOS.
At trial Mr. Kirkland attempted to introduce those photos into evidence and present them to the jury. Those photos clearly showed that the identification of him as the shooter was incorrect, and that it was someone other than him that was the assailant for this horrible crime. Those photos would have clearly exonerated him, but was held from the juror's viewing. His own trial attorneys refused to introduce them. The D.A. objected to Mr. Kirkland presenting them. The judge even denied him from doing so, basically saying, "From the length of his hair in the April 22nd photos, his hair could have grown long enough to had been cornrowed in eight days (by April 30th).", which we all know is scientifically impossible.
This got so bad that after recess Mr. Kirkland refused to go back into the courtroom, because of being railroaded at the hands of his trial attorneys, the D.A., and the trial judge. Mr. Kirkland did not forfeit though. He went back in to finish his trial without the jury ever seeing them exculpatory photos. He wrote a letter to the Court describing the situation and had his attorney read it into the trial's record to "preserve" this issue for his appeal. SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF LAWYER READING THE LETTER.
And to make matters worse, the D.A. elicited testimony from three witnesses, Ms. Carolyn Wright, Massachusetts State Police Officer Gregorczyk, and Springfield Police Officer Capoza, and had them lie on the stand and say that Mr. Kirkland had braids in his hair when he was riddled with bullet holes and taken to the hospital. Then, in his closing argument to the jury, the D.A. implied that the medical personnel must have cut Mr. Kirkland's hair in the hospital. This was impossible because Mr. Kirkland was in critical condition, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, and there were no injuries to his head, in which getting to an injury on his head would have been the only reason the medical personnel would have cut Mr. Kirkland's hair. The medical personnel wouldn't have groomed his hair just for the sake of grooming his hair. And we have Mr. Kirkland's medical records, pertaining to his treatments during his days in the hospital, and they do not say anything about him receiving hair salon services in the hospital. SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF D.A.'s CLOSING - IMPLICATION. The D.A. even implying this in his closing argument was totally improper, not only because he didn't have any evidence to support it, but also because he had already seen the April 22nd photos, and knows that Mr. Kirkland could not have had braids in his hair on April 30th.
In September 2016, Mr. Kirkland filed a motion for new trial (pro se) mainly regarding the issues described above. On January 28, 2020, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on that motion. At the hearing three witnesses testified on Mr. Kirkland's behalf.
Tiara Galbreath, another person who visited Mr. Kirkland at the prison, is one of the witnesses that testified at the hearing. She authenticated photos of herself with Mr. Kirkland that were taken on April 10, 2011, twenty days before the barbershop shooting. Those photos show Mr. Kirkland with a low haircut that would have been incapable of being braided into cornrows in just twenty days. Ms. Galbreath testified that Mr. Kirkland's hairstyle was a "low haircut" the day she had seen him, and that he was "trying to grow waves". SEE APRIL 10, 2011 PHOTOS.
Fredrick Smith, a licensed barber since 1992, the barber that actually cut Mr. Kirkland's hair for his April 10th and 22nd visits (where the photos were taken), also testified at the hearing. Mr. Smith testified that he cut Mr. Kirkland's hair every other week for his visits. Mr. Smith's testimony included the fact that he used the "number 1" guard when he cut Mr. Kirkland's hair, which would have left the length of Mr. Kirkland's hair just 1/16 of an inch long, and it would have been impossible for Mr. Kirkland's hair to have grown long enough to get cornrowed in just eight days, or even twenty days, later. Mr. Smith testified that it would have taken several months for Mr. Kirkland's hair to grow that long.
Joy Talbot has been a licensed barber since 1983, is a barber instructor at S.B.C.C., and the co-chairman of the Board of Registration of Cosmetology and Barbering of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which "oversees all the laws and regulations, as well as write the laws and regulations for cosmetology and barbering." They also set the requirements for by which people become licensed in the Commonwealth. Mrs. Talbot was called in as an expert witness at this hearing. She was shown the April 10th and 22nd photos, and her expert opinion was nearly the same as Mr. Smith's, which is, "It would have been impossible for Mr. Kirkland's hair to have grown long enough to have been braided into cornrows in just eight days, or even twenty days, later." She also testified that it would have taken months for Mr. Kirkland's hair to grow that long.
Nikolas Andreopoulos, Mr. Kirkland's trial attorney, testified at the hearing also. He did not have any reasonable explanations for failing to present the exculpatory photographs to the jury. He also testified that it never came to his mind to present the opinion of an expert to prove that Mr. Kirkland's hair could not have been braided at the time of the shooting. That testimony supports Mr. Kirkland's claim of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.
The objective evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing proves Mr. Kirkland correct in the letter he had his attorney read to the Court about his hair being incapable of being braided at the time of the shooting. That also proves the judge and prosecutor wrong when they denied Mr. Kirkland of his right to show those exculpatory photos to the jury (unless he agreed to a stipulation that would tell the jury that his short hair could have grown long enough to have been braided into cornrows in just eight days - which obviously would've been a false statement).
They hid exculpatory evidence from the jury that would have shown that it was impossible for Mr. Kirkland to have had braids in his hair at the time of the shooting, which would have created serious doubt as to him being the black male with cornrows in his hair that did the shooting. Instead, the prosecutor had police officers commit perjury, saying Mr. Kirkland had cornrows in his hair when he was brought to the hospital. Then the prosecutor told the jury, in his closing argument, that Mr. Kirkland got a haircut in the hospital before the photos of him in the hospital were taken.
All of that was done just to make Mr. Kirkland match that description of the assailant when the evidence said otherwise. Mr. Kirkland was clearly denied his right to a fair trial. In the interest of justice, for this one issue alone, Mr. Kirkland must be granted a new trial. SEE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS TO PRODUCE ALL FAVORABLE EVIDENCE
Again, that's just one of the issues regarding Mr. Kirkland being misidentified as the assailant in this case. As you read on you'll read about more injustices, as the prosecutor twisted more evidence to enhance and support the misidentification of Mr. Kirkland so he can win this wrongful conviction of Mr. Kirkland.
Height Description of the Shooter
There was a 911 caller that called 911 right after the shooting in the barbershop. That person described the shooter as a thin black male, 5'6", 5'7". During the D.A.'s closing argument he played the 911 recording. After playing it, he tells the jury, "5-6, 5-7, thin, thin. That's the description of Tamik Kirkland." SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF D.A.'s CLOSING - HEIGHT. But the D.A. knew, from his own paper work ("D.A. DISCOVERY"), that Mr. Kirkland is 5 feet, 10 inches, tall. SEE D.A. DISCOVERY - HEIGHT The D.A. deliberately lied to the jury and told them that Mr. Kirkland was "5-6, 5-7," just to make him match the height description of the shooter as well. Then later on in his closing argument the D.A. thanked the 911 caller, specifically for the height description, as if that really was Mr. Kirkland's height. SEE MORE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF D.A.'s CLOSING - HEIGHT.
Skin Complexion of the Shooter
There was another witness who could not identify the shooter's face, but he did get the shooter's skin complexion. He was the only witness to get the skin complexion. This witness testified that the shooter's skin was "Brown or medium brown." SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF WITNESS TESTIMONY - COMPLEXION. Now Mr. Kirkland is a very dark skinned individual. There's no mistaking that. So during his closing argument, the D.A. lies to the jury again, and tells them that this witness (and other witnesses) told them, "over and over again," that the shooter was dark skinned. SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF D.A.'s CLOSING - COMPLEXION. There was not one witness at the trial that said the shooter had dark skin. But because Mr. Kirkland has dark skin, the D.A. lied to make the description of the shooter match Mr. Kirkland.
This case was about eyewitness' testimony, in regards to what the alleged shooter's appearance was that day. Mr. Kirkland did not, and does not, fit the shooter's description. So he absolutely could not have been the "braided," "5-6, 5-7," "Brown or medium brown," black male assailant that went into the barbershop and committed those terrible acts. But the D.A. improperly made Mr. Kirkland match that description, just to get this wrongful conviction.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
To top that off, during closing arguments Mr. Kirkland's own attorney told the jury to find Mr. Kirkland guilty of first-degree murder. Attorney Andrew Klyman, from the Public Defender's office, told the jury, "The prosecutor is proceeding on two theories of murder. One being deliberate premeditation, the other being extreme atrocity and cruelty..." Then, "I suggest that at the very least, you find Tamik Kirkland not guilty of first-degree murder by means of extreme atrocity and cruelty." Attorney Klyman basically conceded that Mr. Kirkland should be found guilty of the other first-degree murder, by means of deliberate premeditation, which is what the jury found Mr. Kirkland guilty of. SEE TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS OF ATTORNEY KLYMAN'S CLOSING.
Now remember, this lawyer that was supposed to have been defending Mr. Kirkland is the same lawyer that fought against Mr. Kirkland, to prevent him from showing the jury those photos that could've proven that he wasn't the person that committed the murder. Then the lawyer tells the jury to find Mr. Kirkland guilty of that murder. This is the epitome of an attorney selling his client out.
Mr. Kirkland is going strong in his post-conviction and appellate fight. The motion for new trial that he filed in 2016 is still pending and he now has the representation of appellate counsel Merritt Schnipper. Since he has been on the case Attorney Schnipper has filed supplementals and additional issues to Mr. Kirkland's motion that supports the fact that justice was not done in Mr. Kirkland's case.
Mr. Kirkland is not an angel. He has been in trouble before. However, he is not a murderer, and is 100% innocent of the murder he has been convicted of. As you can see, this trial was never about guilt or innocence. The District Attorney's goal was never to bring out the truth so the jury can decide. Instead they ignored, hid and/or disparaged evidence that clearly shows that Mr. Kirkland was not the assailant that went into the barbershop and shot those men. Their only objective was to convict Mr. Kirkland by any means. There were a lot of laws broken, and rights violated, in order to obtain this wrongful conviction of Mr. Kirkland. This was not a fair trial at all.
The purpose of this website is to shine a light on the injustices that took place in Mr. Kirkland's case, which is also happening to thousands and thousands of people throughout this country. After being railroaded at the hands of horrible Defense Attorneys, District Attorneys, and Judges of the Criminal Justice System, people get wrongfully convicted and spend decades of their lives in prison for crimes they didn't commit. Those people fight and fight with strong evidence of their innocence, but because they do not have the funding, a huge support system and/or the public paying attention to their cases, their cries for justice get denied and their issues get swept under the rug like they never existed.
For the reasons stated herein, it's understood that in order for Mr. Kirkland to obtain a fair decision on his appeal and post-conviction fight, he will need the support of the public, a public that believes in justice for all, and that an innocent man should get a fair chance at proving his innocence. Mr. Kirkland will be grateful for whatever help and support you can provide him with in his fight for justice and freedom (even if it's just a wish for justice on social media). Remember, the Court will easily sweep his issues under the rug if they believe no one is paying attention. If you are willing and able to support this movement in anyway feel free the contact us at any time. We thank you for your help and support in advance.
The Free Kirkland Movement