UPDATE: SEARCY HEARINGS REPEATEDLY CANCELED New hearing Wed. May 9 at 9 a.m. Judge Timothy Kenny Rm. 602 Frank Murphy Hall; was set for April 30
Large crowd of Searcy supporters at initial hearings
Later hearings were converted to in-chambers, off-the-record judge/attorney conferences
Is a cover-up in the works? Is this another “innocence denier” tactic?
By Diane Bukowski
April 25, 2018 UPDATED May 1, 2018
DETROIT—UPDATE: Since the most substantial and relevant portion of Thelonious Searcy’s evidentiary hearing (the confession by Vincent Smothers to the 2004 killing of Jamal Segars, exonerating Searcy) has been held, subsequent scheduled hearings have been repeatedly canceled, including one that was supposed to be held April 30.
VOD spoke with Searcy by phone yesterday. He did not find out that the April 30 hearing, set for 9 am, had been canceled until 2 pm that day. He told VOD that numerous supporters come to all his hearings, some of them flying in from across the country, taking off work and other inconveniences, only to discover when they arrive that the hearing has once again been postponed.
“They wake us up in the jail to go to court at 3 a.m.,” Searcy said. “Then we are moved around to other places in the complex until we finally end up in the bullpen of the judge’s court where our hearing is scheduled. In between, they do numerous practice ‘dry runs’ on other days, waking us up for them at 3 a.m. as well. The conditions in the old jail are terrible; there are bedbugs, overcrowding and constant tension in the population.”
The Prison Legal News reported in a Jan. 2017 article,
“Things were so bad that in January 2015, as reported by the Detroit Free Press, a Wayne County Circuit judge ordered the county to develop a plan ‘for preventative maintenance that would presumably fix a slew of problems at the jails, including a crumbling kitchen floor, drain fly larvae, organic matter in inmate showers and malfunctioning equipment.”
Ironically, rhe judge who ordered the jail clean-up in Presiding Criminal Court Judge Timothy Kenny, who as Searcy’s trial judge is also holding his evidentiary hearing.
Thelonious Searcy, 38, has been languishing in the old Wayne County Jail since tw0 court hearings a month ago, during which admitted hitman Vincent Smothers and his co-defendant Marzell Black each testified that Smothers, not Searcy, killed Jamal Segars in 2004, during a “Black Party” outside City Airport.
Smothers’ stark testimony was especially stunning, since his attorney Gabi Silver had advised him to plead the Fifth Amendment.
Searcy’s supporters filled the court for both hearings and even came out for the hearings that Judge Timothy Kenny held later in chambers and off the record.
Searcy was seriously ill for most of the past month. He told VOD that he did not get any medical treatment at the jail until his attorney intervened. He is normally housed at the Thumb Correctional Facility and is only in the county jail for his court appearances.
Why the long delay? Two scheduled court hearings have come and gone since then, one postponed by the defense due to illness, and the other by Judge Timothy Kenny. Since then, Kenny has met with attorneys in chambers, OFF THE RECORD, to discuss various issues, on various dates.
One was his March 26 order to have the Michigan State Police Crime lab analyze a sealed envelope containing ballistics evidence from the day Segars was killed, Sept. 5, 2004. Searcy discovered earlier that ballistics reports in his case used the same evidence tag number for a .9mm shell casing and for a .40 mm shell casing.
Police officers at the scene reportedly crashed into a burgundy Marauder exiting the gas station across the street. Some witnesses said they fired their guns, which could account for the presence of a 9 mm casing.
Searcy’s defense attorney Michael Deszi got his own independent expert to oversee the reexamination.
Searcy raised that issue in part because the Detroit Police Officer Kevin Reed, an uncertified city forensics worker, testified at his trial about ballistics evidence. A review by the Michigan State Police crime lab of Reed’s work and other lab results showed that at least 10 percent were falsified, and over 40 percent did not follow standard forensics protocol. As a result, the Detroit Crime Lab was shut down.
Deszi also told VOD, however, that other problems have arisen.
First, he said, Asst. Pros. Thomas Chambers refused to provide him with a copy of the Detroit Police Department homicide file on the Segars case. Judge Kenny told Dezsi to subpoena the file. It is VOD’s understanding that the file has since been provided.
Then, Deszi said, Chambers claimed the prosecution could not find the original trial file on the case. This reporter reviewed that file in July, 2017 while it was in the ninth floor Criminal Division office of the Wayne County Clerk. She obtained copies of Searcy’s motion for a new trial and related documents from the Clerk’s staff. The file, which appeared to be in perfect working order, was returned to the Clerk.
Deszi said they have also discussed an arrest report on the prosecution’s chief witness in the case, DeAnthony Witcher.
Dated Nov. 18, 2004, one week before Searcy’s arrest in the Segars case, it shows that Detroit police stopped Witcher, who was driving a blue 1998 Chevy Corvette, and discovered a “.9 mm black/silver frame handgun, Smith & Wesson . . . with 14 live rounds.”
Searcy himself discovered the report after he had filed a Freedom of Information Act Request for the homicide files through his grandmother. The report says Witcher was to be charged for carrying a concealed weapon.
However, the only charges listed on the Third Judicial Circuit Court’s website for DeAnthony Witcher relate to an incident dated May 29, 2000, consisting of Homicide-Murder-Second Degree, Assault with Intent to Murder, Assault with a Dangerous Weapon, and Weapons Felony Firearm. Strangely, Judge Robert Colombo found him NOT GUILTY of all these serious charges in a bench trial.
Searcy says he has questioned all along whether Witcher testified falsely for the prosecution in the Segars case in order to make the concealed weapons charge go away.
The arrest report also shows that Witcher was driving a BLUE 1998 Chevy Corvette. The prosecution’s theory in the Segars case was that Searcy was actually seeking to kill Witcher, and mistook Segars’ SILVER Corvette for Witcher’s car. Since the initial version of this story was published, Searcy says prosecutors have claimed that the CCW charges against Witcher were dropped because the car belonged to another individual.
A man claiming to be DeAnthony Witcher called this reporter to ask to meet with her last week, but his offer was declined.
Meanwhile, Dezsi also plans to present a motion regarding the Witcher situation at the May 9 hearing, which asks for complete production of all documents in the prosecution’s possession related to the Witcher arrest, and the possibility that he was not charged in exchange for his testimony at Searcy’s trial. If they do not produce the documents, Dezsi is asking that Judge Kenny draw a “negative inference” from their lack of action. See motion at:http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Searcy.Mtn_.Compel.pdf.
Also evidently not in Deszi’s hands at this point is a list of all of Searcy’s alibi witnesses, in addition to those who testified that Searcy was at a family barbecue during the time of the Segars shooting.
In an article published by Slate magazine in January, author Lara Bazelon called Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy, along with two other prominent prosecutors across the country, repeat “Innocence Deniers.” She pointed out that Worthy to this day contends that Davontae Sanford, 14 when he was charged with four murders Smothers confessed to, is actually guilty despite her agreement to release him from prison after nine years.
Worthy spent most of a livestreamed press conference announcing Sanford’s release reiterating the evidence the prosecution had against Sanford. To this day, she has not charged Smothers or his partner for the four Runyon Street murders, despite Smothers’ repeated and detailed confessions.
A 114 page report done by the Michigan State Police includes numerous Detroit Police Department reports that, if they had been read by prosecutors, would have ruled out Sanford as a suspect, including tw0 eyewitness reports from the night of the killings.
Is Worthy’s office playing another “Innocence Denial” game in the Searcy case?