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wrongful conviction

judge's hammer on top of $100 bills
Yingko / Adobe Stock

A 61-year-old Ionia man will receive 1.3 million dollars from the state. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

One of two men convicted of a 1999 murder is suing two ex-Detroit Police investigators for allegedly fabricating the case against him.

Justly Johnson alleges the now-retired homicide detectives, Catherine Adams and Barbara Simon, coerced teenagers into falsely testifying that Johnson and Kendrick Scott shot and killed Lisa Steinberg Kindred in a robbery gone wrong.

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More money could be added to the state’s wrongful conviction fund. Lawmakers sent a bill to add $10 million to the fund to the governor’s desk on Thursday.

The money set aside for people who were wrongfully convicted is almost gone.

State Representative Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) is a bill sponsor.

Flickr user Still Burning / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state will soon need more money to pay for potential awards to those who were wrongfully convicted.

A state law says people who meet certain criteria can receive $50,000 for every year they spent incarcerated.

There are two people who will likely receive awards from the fund soon – and that would wipe out almost all the money currently set aside.

Now, the state attorney general’s office wants to work with the Legislature to make sure there’s enough money allocated when it passes the next budget.

Project Innocence

Three Michigan men who say they were wrongfully convicted hope Gov. Rick Snyder will pardon them before he leaves office.

The University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic has submitted executive clemency requests for Donyelle Woods, Frederick Freeman, and Mark Craighead.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After spending 34 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, Darrell Siggers was officially cleared of the crime on Friday, as Wayne County prosecutors announced they would drop all charges against him.

Siggers always maintained that he was innocent of the 1984 murder of Robert Montgomery on Philip Street in Detroit. He filed numerous appeals over the years, to no avail. 

Aaron Salter
Michigan Department of Corrections

After spending 15 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, Aaron Salter walked out of prison a free man Wednesday, as Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy dismissed charges against him.

Salter was convicted of shooting at four people on a Detroit porch 2003. One man was killed, and Salter was tried and convicted of the murder based solely on eyewitness testimony from one of the victims.

Desmond RIcks (center) with family members in 2017.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An exonerated man’s federal lawsuit has led to a legal fight between the city of Detroit and the Michigan attorney general’s office.

Desmond Ricks is suing the city and Detroit police officers for $125 million. He was convicted of a 1992 murder, but cleared and released last year. Ricks claims Detroit police fabricated ballistics evidence to implicate him in the murder of Gerry Bennett.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

After spending 45 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, Richard Phillips walked out of court officially a free man Wednesday.

Phillips was convicted of the 1971 murder of Gregory Harris in Detroit, but always maintained his innocence. He tried to appeal his conviction several times with no success, including a 1997 appeal that languished in the courts.

Joe Linstroth / Michigan Radio

Lawyers for wrongfully convicted ex-prisoners are crying foul over the dismissal of their clients claims on the grounds of a missed deadline that they dispute.

The exonerated former inmates are seeking damages under the recent Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act. The 2016 law is intended to compensate people for the years they were wrongly imprisoned.

Gabi Silver represents one of the ex-prisoners, Konrad Montgomery, who spent more than three years in prison for a crime he did not commit. 

Richard Phillips with attorney Gabi Silver just after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Richard Phillips spent 45 years in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit. But on Thursday, he emerged a free man--at least for the time being.

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A Detroit man who spent decades in prison for murder because of a single hair is seeking millions of dollars now that his conviction has been thrown out.

 

Ledura Watkins was released in June after prosecutors said hair evidence in the 1970s was flawed based on current FBI standards. He filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking $168 million, including $84 million for each of his nearly 42 years behind bars.

Cheyna Roth / MPRN

The first hearings to compensate people who’ve been wrongfully convicted started today, but some left the courtroom unsatisfied.

 

The hearings come after a new law was signed at the end of last year. That law provides for wrongfully convicted people to be compensated $50,000 for each year they were in prison.

 

Kym Worthy
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is adding staff to look into possible wrongful convictions.

"No prosecutor wants to be party to knowingly convicting or keeping someone in prison that is either factually not guilty or a case we can't sustain," Worthy told the Associated Press. "We should not be afraid to have a unit like this."

Desmond Ricks and members of the Michigan Innocence Clinic pose outside the prison where Ricks had been held since 1992
Photo courtesy of Michigan Innocence Clinic

It was a day 25 years in coming.

A Wayne County judge threw out Desmond Ricks' murder conviction after it came to light that his 1992 conviction may have been based on faulty evidence produced by the Detroit police crime lab.

Desmond Ricks was finally exonerated.

Marwin McHenry
Michigan Department of Corrections

A Detroit man who was serving a long prison sentence instead prepared to walk free Monday, after a post-conviction investigation cleared him in a 2012 shooting.

Marwin McHenry was convicted of shooting a young woman during a street fight that summer.

McHenry said he was blocks away at the time, and pointed the finger at another man, James Bosley.

Initially, so did the victim. But she and other eyewitnesses later identified McHenry as the shooter.

Tommy and Raymond Highers served 26 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit.
Joe Linstroth / Michigan Radio

"It was an out-of-body experience."

That's how Raymond Highers described the moment when the judge sentenced him and his brother Tommy Highers to life without parole for a murder they didn't commit.

Konrad Montgomery
Joe Linstroth / Michigan Radio

When the police knocked on his door, it never crossed Konrad Montgomery's mind that they were there for him. 

The authorities were looking for a suspect in an armed robbery that took place on Detroit's east side, and a cell phone involved in the situation was traced back to Montgomery. The robbery occurred roughly 11 miles from where Montgomery claimed to be at the time of the incident. But since he was making money by selling used cell phones, he was caught up in the case. 

Montgomery was tried and convicted of armed robbery and attempted murder. He spent nearly three years in prison before he was exonerated. 

Julie Baumer
Joe Linstroth / Michigan Radio

"You can just imagine the hell." 

The hell that Julie Baumer describes is her life after being tried and convicted for a crime that she did not commit. She spent more than four years in prison after the courts found her guilty of child abuse involving her five-week-old nephew. When she was ultimately found to be innocent of the charges, she was set free.

Public Act 343 makes Michigan the 32nd state to provide exonorees with compensation for time served.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Just try to imagine how it would feel to be accused of a crime. Wrongfully accused. You didn't do it. But you're convicted and sent to prison.

Then, miraculously, you get another shot and your innocence is proven.

You're released with absolutely no compensation, and no help re-entering the world outside of those prison walls.

That was the case in Michigan until just last week when Public Act 343 took effect. With that, Michigan became the 32nd state to provide exonorees with compensation for time served.

Lamarr Monson takes notes in court during final arguments to overturn his murder conviction.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Lawyers made their final arguments in court Wednesday, but it will take more than a month for a Wayne County judge to decide whether Lamarr Monson deserves a new trial.

Monson confessed to the 1996 murder of Christina Brown, a 12-year-old runaway. The two lived and sold drugs together out of an apartment on Detroit’s west side, though Monson and others say Brown told people she was 17.

But Monson later said that Detroit police tricked and coerced him into confessing. And his lawyers say it bears the hallmarks of a false confession.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed into law legislation compensating people who’ve been wrongfully imprisoned.

Under the “Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act,” the compensation would amount to $50,000 for every year the individual was incarcerated, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and expenses.

“Michigan’s criminal justice system does a tremendous job, however there is always more we can do to make it better, particularly for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit,” Snyder said in a written statement.  

Prison bars
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Michigan Radio is involved with several news media partners in a project called the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. One of the issues we're looking at this year is justice, things such as mass incarceration and wrongful conviction. 

There's a nationwide network of legal clinics that are working to litigate claims of actual innocence by prisoners. Many of these clinics base their work on DNA evidence which has led to clearing the names and the release of hundreds of people. 

At the University of Michigan, the Michigan Innocence Clinic operates a little differently. It pursues cases in which DNA evidence is not available. 

Macomb County resident Julie Baumer volunteered to care for her sister’s unwanted baby thirteen years ago. She was a 27-year-old mortgage broker who was engaged to be married and had a full life, but she didn’t want the little boy to be put up for adoption.

But a few weeks later, she took the baby to the hospital, where doctors discovered a lot of blood on his brain. She was suspected of violently shaking the baby.

Kym Worthy (file photo).
waynecounty.com

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy defended her office’s handling of the Davontae Sanford case today.

Sanford confessed to four Detroit murders in 2007, when he was just 14 years old.

But a judge overturned Sanford’s convictions and freed him this week.

Worthy says that became possible only after a recent Michigan State Police investigation she requested found a Detroit police officer lied about key aspects of Sanford’s confession.

Questions about Sanford’s guilt arose as early as 2008, when a hit man named Vincent Smothers confessed to the same crimes.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

He was just 14 years old when he confessed to and was convicted of a quadruple murder.

But today, 23-year-old Davontae Sanford walks out of Ionia State Prison a free man.

His conviction was vacated Tuesday by Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan, who agreed with arguments that Sanford's case had all the hallmarks of a false confession.

David Moran is with the Michigan Innocence Clinic and was co-counsel on this case.

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Legislation up for a vote in the state Senate tomorrow would compensate felons who are exonerated for the time they were wrongfully imprisoned. It would allow $50,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration. It would also offer aftercare services to freed inmates.    

State Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, says Michigan is one just a handful of states that does not compensate people for wrongful imprisonment. He says it offers a measure of justice.

Davontae Sanford
Michigan Department of Corrections

After spending eight years in prison, a Detroit man convicted of murdering four people has been cleared and ordered released.

Davontae Sanford confessed to the murders in 2007, when he was just 14.

But soon after Sanford’s conviction, a hit man confessed to the same crimes, and insisted Sanford was not involved.

Now, following a Michigan State Police re-investigation of the case, Wayne County Judge Brian Sullivan has vacated Sanford’s convictions, and ordered him released immediately. Prosecutor Kym Worthy had agreed to dismiss Sanford’s case Tuesday morning.

Shayan Sanyal / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Legislation to compensate people who are wrongly imprisoned in Michigan is moving forward at the state Capitol.

A state House committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to give people $60,000 for every year they are imprisoned plus damages.

U of M Michigan Innocence Clinic

After serving 16 years for a crime he didn’t commit, Jamie Lee Peterson walked away from a courtroom in Kalkaska today a free man.

Peterson was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of Geraldine Montgomery. He was sentenced to life in prison two years later. 

Prosecutors dropped the rape and murder charges against Peterson after he was cleared by new DNA evidence. The DNA evidence did implicate another man in the murder. He’s awaiting trial. 

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