ITHACA, N.Y. — A man convicted of having the gun used in an accident that killed a man in 2003 is still trying to clear his name, this time presenting evidence that the gun used was not his.

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In 2003, Tarrant Sheppard, 31, was wrestling with Enrique “Ricky”Chavez in an apartment in Ithaca when a gun was accidentally discharged. Chavez was shot in the chest and died.

Sheppard was initially charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence. He was only convicted on the weapon charge. He was sentenced to 3.5 to seven years in prison.

In court Wednesday morning, three witnesses were called to testify that the gun did not belong to Sheppard.

Sheppard’s mother, Francesca Carter, testified that in 2012 she visited her son’s childhood friend, Jameel Melton, in jail.

Carter said Melton brought up the topic of Sheppard’s sentencing and said it was “messed up.” He then told her the gun belonged to himself.

“I told him he needed to let people know,” Carter said. “He said he would first need to speak to his attorney.”

Melton was called to the stand but pled the fifth amendment to not incriminate himself when all questions were asked.

Melton is in custody at the Orleans Correctional Facility after being convicted of robbing a man with the help of a woman who posed as a prostitute in 2013.

Court records show that police found bullets and a gun holster for a .380 Bryco snubnose pistol — the same kind of gun Sheppard is accused of possessing — in Melton’s room. Melton also confessed to handling the gun the day of the incident after police told him they would test he gun for his fingerprints.

During Sheppard’s initial trial, Melton could not be found by police or court officials to be called in as a witness, court records show.

The third witness called to the stand was private investigator Keith Workman, who questioned Melton about the case in 2013.

“I don’t think he mentioned the gun,” Workman said, though he admitted that he couldn’t remember most of the conversation they had.

Sheppard’s lawyer Paul Corradini said, “The testimony, quite frankly, takes me by surprise.”

In an affidavit signed by Workman, he said Melton was willing to testify that Sheppard never had possession of the gun.

Keith Workman's affidavit

After Wednesday’s hearing, Sheppard and his mother declined to comment.

Corradini briefly spoke on behalf of Sheppard saying the testimony presented could land him a new trial.

“It would wipe out a criminal conviction on his record,” Corradini said, which is all his client wants.

Sheppard has already served his jail sentence. He was released from prison on parole in January 2014, records show.

Sheppard has tried to prove his innocence multiple times in the past. His case has been through three appeals, two 440 hearings to void his conviction, and a 330 hearing that attempted to temporarily set aside his sentencing in light of information not presented to the jury during the trial.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.