Code of Silence

Key eyewitness, concerned about reprisals, says he won’t testify in Miami murder case

The man he says committed the crime isn’t the one serving a life sentence

By Isabella Cueto and Riane Roldan
The Medill Justice Project

Arnold Clark, right, said he won’t testify in a Miami murder case, even though he told The Medill Justice Project that the man convicted of the crime, Andre Gonzales, left, isn’t the man who committed the killing. (Photo courtesy: Florida Department of Corrections)

MIAMI—A key eyewitness, fearful of retribution, said he will not testify in a Miami murder case even though he knows who committed the killing and it isn’t the man who is serving a life sentence for it. 

Arnold Clark told prosecutors in a recent deposition that he stood by his story, which he first gave in a 2015 interview with The Medill Justice Project and later confirmed in an affidavit filed by the defendant’s attorney. Defense investigators had trouble finding Clark, who went by the nickname “Maniac.” But when The Medill Justice Project identified and tracked him down, Clark, the former bouncer and floor manager of a club in Liberty City, said he witnessed what happened in 2005 when a man was shot and killed near the club.

Clark said he hadn’t come forward because of what he described as a code of silence that prevails in Liberty City in which you don’t ask or tell when you witness a crime. A man whom Clark said he doesn’t know named Andre Gonzales, also known as Tony Brown, was convicted of the crime. Gonzales has always maintained his innocence.

Clark, who is serving time for a separate crime, has about four years left in his sentence and said he does not want to “go out there and be faced with” the repercussions of turning in his friend whom Clark said committed the crime and is well connected in the nightclub scene.

“I’m sorry,” Clark said. “But, you know, I have to look out for my well-being more than anything.”

He added, “When I get out, this is something I’m going to have to face, and I’ve replayed this over and over in my mind.”

Clark blamed Miami police detectives for sharing his account with the friend Clark said committed the murder. Clark said while police can “go home at night with a badge,” he doesn’t have that protection. “I ain’t no pebble on the beach; I got a record,” Clark said. “But once again law enforcement, the state of Florida – Miami, Florida has failed again. And I just choose not to have no dealing with it.”

Clark said four detectives came to see him in prison and one of them told him, “[W]e don’t believe you.” That was in reference to Clark’s account of what happened the night of the crime. Police couldn’t be reached for comment.

Since his sentencing, Gonzales has filed motions in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court to vacate his conviction, citing “evidence of actual innocence” discovered by The Medill Justice Project.

In a prison interview, Clark told The Medill Justice Project he saw his friend—not Gonzales—shoot and kill Nigel Whatley, one of the two victims, and vouched he is certain authorities got the wrong man.

“I won’t deny what I said because what I said was concrete,” Clark said in his deposition.

“[A]t the end of the day, I can stand firm on everything I say because if you look at every affidavit my story has not changed a bit,” Clark said.

Circuit Court Judge Miguel de la O gave the defense 30 days to reassess and plan its next steps.

Gonzales’ defense attorney, Philip Reizenstein, said he is planning to subpoena Clark.

“We intend to bring him to court, depo or no depo,” Reizenstein said in an interview for this story.

He said Gonzales is aware of the recent developments in the case; Gonzales could not be reached for comment.

In The Medill Justice Project investigation, three jurors said they were not convinced of Gonzales’ guilt but went along with the decision to convict him anyway. Significant discrepancies in the account of  the surviving victim and sole eyewitness who testified at trial were also identified.

Another hearing on the case is scheduled at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building May 12.

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