Robert McCoy, Louisiana death-row prisoner

“One of 10 death sentences in Louisiana since 2000 that have been tainted with the same flaw”

“Decision to maintain one’s innocence falls within the category of decisions reserved for the defendant” — USSC

VOD: Some have estimated conservatively that at least 20 percent of Michigan’s 343 juvenile lifers are innocent. Many were represented by court-appointed attorneys, some of whom argued they were guilty, because their families could not afford paid counsel. They were falsely convicted after corrupt police and forensic testimony.

County prosecutors have recommended renewed life without parole sentences for at least 247 of them, although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 and 2016 that mandatory juvenile life without parole is retroactively unconstitutional, and that “only the rarest child” should die in prison.  

Unfortunately, many current court-appointed attorneys,  have refused to argue innocence claims, saying that the re-sentencings do not allow for such arguments. The McCoy v. Louisiana case strongly makes the point that a lawyer is OBLIGATED to argue innocence if that is what the client wishes.

USSC Justices who voted to overturn McCoy conviction are shown in color. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbury wrote the majority opinion.

Amy Howe Independent Contractor and Reporter

Opinion analysis:

Posted Mon, May 14th, 2018 11:42 am

 [NOTE: This post was updated with additional analysis at 4:18 p.m.]

This morning the Supreme Court overturned a Louisiana inmate’s death sentence because the inmate’s lawyer – hoping to save his client’s life – had told the jury that the inmate was guilty, even though the inmate had expressly objected to that strategy. The 6-3 ruling reiterated that the Constitution gives a criminal defendant the fundamental right to make decisions about his defense and therefore bars a defense lawyer from going against his client’s instructions, even when the lawyer’s defense strategy might seem perfectly reasonable.

Attorney Larry English

The decision came in the case of Robert McCoy, who in 2011 was on trial for the shooting deaths of his estranged wife’s son, mother and stepfather. McCoy clashed with his public defenders, so his parents hired a private attorney, Larry English, to represent him. McCoy insisted that he was innocent and was being framed in retaliation for revealing that local police were involved in a drug ring, but English believed that the evidence against his client was “overwhelming.”

So English first encouraged McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence; as McCoy’s trial approached, English told McCoy that he planned to tell the jury that McCoy had committed all three murders, in the hope that doing so would convince the jury to sentence McCoy to life in prison, rather than death. McCoy was furious, but English went ahead with his plan, telling the jury that McCoy was “crazy” and “lives in a fantasy world.”

English’s strategy failed: The jury found McCoy guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death. State courts in Louisiana upheld McCoy’s conviction and death sentence, rejecting his argument that English’s decision to admit McCoy’s guilt, despite McCoy’s objections, violated the Constitution. Today the Supreme Court, in a relatively brief (13-page) decision by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ordered the Louisiana courts to give McCoy a new trial. (See full ruling at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/McCoy-v-Louisiana.pdf .)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbury wrote the McCoy opinion.

The majority acknowledged that English found himself “in a difficult position: he had an unruly client and faced a strong government case.” And it was reasonable for him to believe that he should try to avoid a death sentence for McCoy. But, the majority explained, even when a defendant is represented by an attorney, he does not give up all control over his case to the attorney.

A criminal defendant’s lawyer may be responsible for what the court described as “trial management” – for example, what evidence to object to and what arguments to pursue – but the defendant himself has the sole right to make some decisions, such as whether to plead guilty or to waive the right to a jury trial. The decision to maintain one’s innocence, the court reasoned, falls within the category of decisions reserved for the defendant: If the defendant tells his attorney that “the objective of ‘his defence’ is to maintain innocence of the charged criminal acts,” the court continued, the attorney must follow that instruction and cannot “override it by conceding guilt.”

This means, the majority concluded, that once English knew that McCoy objected to his proposed strategy of admitting McCoy’s guilt to the jury, it was not English’s place to override McCoy’s objection.

Prof. Rory Little

The majority went on to rule that this violation of McCoy’s rights falls within the category of errors known as “structural” – violations that, as criminal law expert Rory Little has explained, “are so fundamental and difficult to quantify” that a defendant does not need to show that they changed the outcome of a trial. The justices explained that, in McCoy’s case, English’s insistence on conceding McCoy’s guilt even after McCoy had objected blocked McCoy’s “right to make the fundamental choices about his own defense.”

Moreover, they added, “the effects of the admission would be immeasurable, because a jury would almost certainly be swayed by a lawyer’s concession of his client’s guilt.” Therefore, the majority concluded, McCoy is entitled to a new trial, without having to show that he was harmed by English’s strategy.

One of McCoy’s attorneys hailed today’s decision, declaring that, although “rare in the rest of the country, what happened to Mr. McCoy was a part of Louisiana’s broken criminal justice system that fails to respect individual human dignity. Mr. McCoy’s was one of ten death sentences imposed in Louisiana since 2000 that have been tainted with the same flaw.”

Louisiana protest vs. state injustice system; Louisiana and Michigan have been called the two worst states in the U.S. regarding their treatment of juvenile lifers.

Justice Samuel Alito dissented, in an 11-page opinion that was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch; he would have left the Louisiana Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the state (and, by extension, McCoy’s death sentence) in place. Alito maintained that the majority had gotten the issue at the heart of the cases wrong: English had not argued that McCoy was guilty of first-degree murder, but had instead told the jurors that although McCoy had killed the three victims, he was not guilty of first-degree murder because he hadn’t intended to kill them, as first-degree murder convictions require.

But in any event, Alito continued, the right described in the court’s opinion today “is like a rare plant that blooms every decade or so”: Among other things, it is only likely to surface in capital cases in which defendants are acting irrationally by contesting their guilt despite overwhelming evidence, and in which lawyers continue to represent those defendants even though they cannot agree with their clients on their strategy. “In short,” Alito concluded, “the right that the Court now discovers is likely to appear only rarely, and because the present case is so unique it is hard to see how it meets our stated criteria for granting review.”

This post was also published at Howe on the Court.








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Rev. Edward Pinkney (left center with hat) and wife Dorothy Pinkney (behind woman in red jacket) with supporters after Michigan Supreme Court hearing. Photo: Joseph Peery




By the People’s Tribune Editorial Board

May, 2018 

Below: Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report interviews Rev. Pinkney

In a victory for the people in the fight against naked corporate power and defending democracy, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled 6-0 that Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was improperly charged with five felony counts of election forgery in 2014 by the Berrien County prosecutor, that he was improperly tried and sentenced by the Berrien County Circuit Court, and improperly served 30 months in prison as a result.

(See complete MSC ruling at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Pinkney-supreme-court-victory.pdf. It remands Pinkney’s case to the trial court in Berrien County to comply with its orders to exonerate and free Rev. Pinkney. Rev. Pinkney said the trial court had 21 days to comply.)

Rev. Edward Pinkney speaks out against Whirlpool’s corporate takeover of Benton Harbor, and Snyder’s Emergency Manager law May 26, 2012.

In overturning Pinkney’s conviction, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the statute he was sentenced for supposedly violating did not create any substantive criminal offense at all, but was merely a sentencing provision for other election forgery offenses which Rev. Pinkney was not charged with. The state Supreme Court ruling marked a rebuke of the Michigan Court of Appeals, which had ruled against Pinkney. 

The People’s Tribune congratulates Rev. Pinkney, the people of Benton Harbor and his supporters across the country on this victory. Rev. Pinkney has been a leader of the struggle against the corporate dictatorship in Benton Harbor and Michigan for many years.

The Whirlpool Corporation dominates Benton Harbor, and Pinkney has been in the forefront of the fight against Whirlpool’s efforts to take over the Lake Michigan beachfront property and public parks in Benton Harbor for private profit.

He has also defended democracy in the fight against the dictatorial emergency manager system imposed by the state in Benton Harbor and elsewhere in Michigan. The emergency manager system opens up cherished public assets such as land and even water to be handed over to the corporations. Rev. Pinkney continues to fight police repression in Benton Harbor, and he helps local people have their rights respected in court.

 The assault on democracy in Benton Harbor

Rev. Pinkney, with wife Dorothy in front, is supported in his Detroit court battle to retain leadership of Benton Harbor NAACP.

When Rev. Pinkney stood up for Benton Harbor, corporate power used the race card to try and shut him up and to destroy democracy in the town. Benton Harbor, a poor Black community, could be easily isolated. An all-white jury from affluent towns was selected to judge Pinkney; jurists had not lived under the oppression of emergency management where corporate officials replace elected officials.  

During the trial, the prosecution admitted there was no physical evidence linking Rev. Pinkney to the crime they were charging him with. And yet the prosecution repeatedly introduced examples of Rev. Pinkney exercising his First Amendment right to free speech, political activities and community activism as evidence he committed the crime.

The corporations thus set the stage to destroy democracy in all of Michigan, and then throughout the United States. The race question has historically been used by the powerful in America to divide and conquer the working class. Today, racial division is one of the main weapons being used to impose fascism on all of us. To win this war we must take this historic weapon of race away from the enemy, and fight for the political as well as economic rights of all Americans. 

Rev. Pinkney (r) speaks at first mass rally in Detroit against what became Public Act 4, the emergency manager law. Photo: Dale Rick

The attack on democracy and Rev. Pinkney’s conviction symbolizes an entire process under way in America. The once stable working class community of Benton Harbor has been devastated by automation and globalization. Today, the former industrial workers have become the marginally or permanently unemployed, and the open rule of corporate power is arising to oppose their struggle. The governing bodies that once controlled us by buying up the people’s leaders now turn to intimidation and brute force. The corporate attack launched on Benton Harbor is now being repeated in one form or another across Michigan and the country.

 Benton Harbor shows that the corporations have continued to escalate their control over the government. That is the foundation of American fascism. They see the little democracy that still remains in our country as an obstacle to their rule. They are determined to destroy it before the deteriorating economic conditions kick the people awake.

Rev. Pinkney asks that everyone continue the boycott of Whirlpool, as well as the Harbor Shores development, and the Sr. PGA held at its golf course, all backed by Whirlpool.

A major battle has been won, but the war is not over. Fascism consolidates down below—by gaining victory after small victory until it has the base for the “important” struggles. This is why it is so important that the revolutionary and democratic forces learn to confront fascist, corporate power at every turn.

From time to time an attack against democracy is so blatant that it symbolizes the entire process. This is the importance of the victory in Benton Harbor. The only way we’re going to ultimately achieve democracy is if the people control the necessities of life. True democracy is the rule of the people. People can’t rule if they’re living in the streets or working two jobs just to survive. If you control the necessaries of life, you are a free person. There’s only one solution. We have to build a huge movement to take over the corporations and run them in the interest of humanity. 

The defense of our leaders is critical to building such a movement. The case of Rev. Pinkney and Benton Harbor shows the importance of the American people taking a stand before it is too late. People rallied in support of Rev. Pinkney because of the injustice and also because he exhibited the characteristics of a new kind of leader, one that cannot be bought off or side tracked from a consistent fight for the needs of the people. When leaders like Rev. Pinkney come under attack, we must defend them. A movement that does not defend its leaders cannot grow. 

The People’s Tribune has covered this fight from the beginning. We urge our readers to take this newspaper out and help awaken America. Learn more about the history of the Benton Harbor struggle by ordering copies of the People’s Tribune pamphlet Benton Harbor, MI: Fighting the Corporate Dictatorship in America’s Rust Belt. To order, email info@peoplestribune.org or call 800-691-6888. A $4 donation is suggested for each pamphlet. 

Rev. Pinkney is available to speak. To schedule him as a speaker, contact: Speakers for a New America at 800-691-6888 or email info@speakersforanewamerica.com/

 We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2018 People’s Tribune. Visit us at

VOD: We spoke briefly with Rev. Pinkney May 21, asking him about 40,000 Michigan prisoners still left behind in the state’s concentration camps. Experts say at least 30 percent are innocent, as in the case of Charles Lewis, and another 50 percent did not get fair trials. At least 70 percent are people of color.

Efren Paredes, Jr.

Charles K.K. Lewis

Still languishing in prison are 247 Michigan juvenile lifers, out of 363, in violation of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016). These rulings held that juvenile life without parole is unconstitutional, “cruel and unusual” punishment, and that “only the rarest” child should be sentenced to die in prison.

Among them is Efren Paredes, Jr., one of Berrien County’s 100 juvenile lifers. Berrien County Prosecutor Eric Sepic, who also prosecuted Pinkney, has recommended that all 100 of the County’s juvenile lifers be re-sentenced to die in prison.

Federal troops must be sent to Michigan to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court decisions and liberate Michigan’s child lifers, just as they were sent to Southern schools to enforce Brown v. the Board of Education.

Sign the petition for Efren Paredes, Jr. at https://www.change.org/p/efrenuncaged-gmail-com-efren-paredes-jr-resentencing-hearing-support-letter

Previous VOD stories:


















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Site of 2004 “Black Party” where Jamal Segars was killed; area was filled with pedestrians and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Evidentiary hearing in case against Thelonious Searcy proceeds May 15 

Invalid jury instructions re: ballistics  

Testimony that police fired guns, contradicting officers’ reports at trial 

Letter from Corp. Counsel re: second fatality at the scene never investigated

 By Diane Bukowski

 May 16, 2018

Thelonious Searcy (r, seated) listens as his attorney Michael Dezsi plays Vincent Smothers’ confession into the record March 19. Smothers is on stand with head bowed.

DETROIT – In addition to Vincent Smothers’ confession on the stand to the murder of Jamal Segars during a Sept. 4, 2004 “Black Party” outside Detroit City Airport, other stunning discrepancies in the prosecution’s case at trial against Thelonious Searcy surfaced during the fourth part of his evidentiary hearing May 15.

Searcy’s defense attorney Michael Dezsi exposed the following key factors during examination of prosecution and police department witnesses, which conformed with Smothers’ account on March 19:

  • Confirmation of the presence of a 9 mm shell casing at the scene, not noted at trial;
  • Invalid jury instructions given at trial that the bullets found in Segars’ body were too deformed for identification;
  • Confirmation that two .40 caliber bullets were obtained from Segars’ chest and neck by the medical examiner;
  • Witness testimony that police fired their guns at a “a driver,” not raised at trial, contradicting officers’ trial testimony that did not fire their weapons;
  • A law department memo referencing another fatality at the scene, in a burgundy Marauder which sped off to an unknown location after colliding with a police car;
  • A police report confirming the collision, not raised at trial or further investigated by DPD.
  • Witness confirmation of the collision and police gunfire.

Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Chambers asked Sgt. Patricia Little, a “prosecuting detective” from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, about the bullet from a sealed envelope examined in her presence at the Michigan State Police crime lab during an inspection Judge Timothy Kenny ordered earlier.

AP Timothy Chambers questions Pros. Det. Patricia Little May 15

“The tag on the envelope said it was bullet 04-08114, removed from the deceased Jamal Segars by Drs. Schmidt and Gupta,” Little read. “The date of the autopsy was Sept. 6, 2004, and it was removed from [Segars] chest.”

She also testified to the medical examiner’s discovery of a second bullet in Segars’ neck. Both were later identified as .40 caliber bullets.

On cross-exam, Dezsi presented a note from trial judge Timothy Kenny responding to  a trial jury inquiry about what caliber bullet(s) were found in Segars’ body.

“Now with regard to your first question about what type of caliber of bullet was found in the deceased. After speaking with the attorneys, they have agreed to my sharing with you that the bullets recovered from the deceased were too deformed to identify what gun they came from or what caliber bullet they were.”

Dezsi asked Little, “Do you agree that the bullet you brought here today has since been identified and labeled as a .40 cal bullet?  Would you agree that telling the jury we don’t know presents a discrepancy from what we see?”

After Chambers’ objection, Little did not respond.

Smothers testified March 19 that he killed Segars with multiple shots using a .40 caliber gun, and that his accomplice Jeffery Daniels approached Segars’ silver Corvette from the passenger side with a .45 caliber gun, but fired it into the air. An investigator’s report from the scene corroborates that:


Also during cross examination, Little admitted to Dezsi that a white tag identifying a 9 mm casing inside an envelope was generated when she picked up evidence from the police property office “a couple of months ago.” She agreed that a 9 mm shell casing was included on a property room inventory report Sept. 16, 2004.

“Does that lead you to believe that as far back as Sept. 16. 2004, somebody had logged in a 9 mm casing, although you testified the last time you thought it was a data entry error?” Dezsi asked Little. “Did this make you believe there was evidence that a 9 mm casing was found at the scene?”

Officer in Charge Sgt. William Anderson on stand May 15, 2018

Little responded in the affirmative.

Sgt. William Anderson, who was working in the Homicide Unit at the time of the Segars killing, and became the Chief Investigative Officer in the case, took the stand next.

“On the night of the shooting I was one of the investigators at the scene,” Anderson told Chambers.  “Regarding Prosecutor’s Exhibit 16, it is a Detroit interoffice memo addressed to me from Kathy Christian Asst. Corp. Counsel. I don’t recall getting it. It does make reference to the case number [in the Segars homicide] 04-289.”

Anderson read the memo, shown below, into the record. Atty. Christian is deceased and was not available to testify.

“It does not sound like the scene I responded to,” Anderson said. “We were there for quite some time. I never saw a dead woman there. I have no idea of what Kathy Christian was talking about.”

Anderson said the DPD keeps books with yearly lists of homicides. He said each listing has a number, name of complainant [deceased], location of crime, fatal or non-fatal, cause of death, homicide file number, and detectives assigned. 

On cross, Dezsi asked him, “Does this book just include Detroit –not Macomb, Oakland, or Washtenaw County?”

Anderson responded in the affirmative.

2004 Mercury Marauder

Dezsi told VOD after the hearing that he was raising the possibility that the burgundy Marauder driver referred to in the memo may have taken the victim to a hospital outside of Detroit if he had a criminal record, and the fatality would not have appeared in the Detroit journal.

Dezsi then introduced into evidence a police report regarding a police car collision with the burgundy Marauder.

The report indicated that as the “crew was approaching a burgundy Mercury Marauder, it sped up, hit the police car, and sped away.”

“Some of your officers in an unmarked car were involved in a collision with another car, which is what the letter from Kathy Christian says to you,” Dezsi said to Anderson, who reiterated that he didn’t recall seeing that letter. 

“You were the officer in charge,” Dezsi reminded Anderson. “You sat through most of the trial, and were present for witness interviews leading up to the trial. You don’t remember Kathy Christian’s letter that someone else was fatally shot in the car that struck the police car?”

Lt. Roy McCalister Jr. is now a Detroit City Council member.

Dezsi noted a handwritten notation on the letter “TT—talked to Roy about getting it on TV—can the tapes be released,” and a note at the bottom dated Oct. 8, 2004 that “we will not release due to the ongoing investigation.”

Anderson said handwritten initials on the bottom of the note belonged to Lt. Roy McAlister and Lt. Ventavogel, but that there were no notes from him.

“Do you see anywhere where [those officers] advised Ms. Christian that her statement was not correct, anything like that,” Dezsi asked. “No notation challenging or questioning Ms. Christian’s remark that there was a second fatality at the crime scene?”

Anderson responded in the negative.

“ I was interviewing people all through the scene; I spent several hours there,” Anderson said. “Had there been another shooting, I would have been concerned about the officers’ well-being.  I don’t know if another incident occurred much earlier or much later. While we were there, there was nothing referenced in the [letter.]”

Deszi then introduced a written statement by witness Latasha Boatwright, which he said she also testified to at Searcy’s preliminary exam.

“She said the police started shooting at the driver,” Dezsi said. “Do you have any recollection of the fact that the police were shooting at the car that left the scene? They weren’t shooting at the decedent [Segars].  What do you interpret her statement to say?”

Jamal Segars was driving a Corvette convertible like this, with the top down, according to Vincent Smothers.

Anderson replied,“It says the Marauder was in the gas station, then turned out of the parking lot.[She] heard shooting and he took off. [She] saw the shooter standing in the middle of the street about ten feet from the Corvette; the police were stuck in traffic. By the time the Marauder and the police car hit, the guy was up on the Corvette still shooting into it, and the passenger jumped out and ran.”

Then Anderson read a key portion of the statement: “The police started shooting at the driver. I only saw one officer, the passenger, shooting. People in the parking were running away from him.”

Deszi asked, “[So] the police were shooting at the driver. What driver—the Corvette, the Marauder, or was it a different driver?”

Anderson said that was not clear.

Following up, Dezsi asked, “Kathy Christian says in her letter that there was a second fatality in the car that hit the cop car. A witness statement says police were shooting at the driver. At no time did you investigate these statements? Were you interested in knowing that the police were shooting that night? The officers testified at trial that they did not discharge their weapons. You did not take any steps to find out whether those statements were accurate?”

Judge Timothy Kenny (r) holds sidebar conference with AP Chambers and Atty. Dezsi at conclusion of hearing.

Anderson responded that there were no shell casings recovered that would indicate the officers fired their guns, and that he would have called in a second investigative team if that had been the case.

Dezsi then asked Anderson if he had reason to believe that a 9 mm shell casing was collected from the scene, referencing the inventory and evidence tag Sgt. Little identified.

Anderson replied in the affirmative.  Dezsi also asked about Kenny’s note to the jury and the fact that bullets found in Segars’ body were identified as .40 caliber.

Dezsi then asked Anderson if he recalled testimony that a .45 caliber gun was found when Searcy was arrested at his grandmother’s home.

“Now we’ve heard that the bullet that was opened was established to be a .40 caliber. Would you agree that the gun that was offered as evidence against Mr. Searcy could not have been the gun that killed Segars?”

Asst. Prosecutor Chambers interjected that a .45 cal shell casing found on the trunk of Segars’ car matched the gun found in Searcy’s [grandmother’s] house.

Smothers earlier testified on the stand and in written affidavits that his accomplice Jeffery Daniels had a .45 caliber gun that he fired into the air during the City Airport killing.

City graph shows 384 homicides in 2004.

During the trial, Searcy’s relatives testified that Daniels had left the gun at Searcy’s grandmother’s house after taking her to the supermarket, and that it did not belong to Searcy. The investigator’s report shown above references a number of .45 caliber shell casings found in the parking lot where the Marauder collision occurred. Detroit police officers regularly use .45 caliber bullets.

Judge Kenny asked that the prosecution locate the DPD homicide journal for 2004, and said that he felt that both sides should be able to come to an agreement about the second alleged homicide after studying that book. He asked that both sides submit their briefs summarizing their positions to him by June 15. He admitted both the police report about the collision with the Marauder and the Boatwright statement into evidence. He announced a motion hearing date of June 29.

Kenny also released his writ on Searcy, sending him back to the Thumb Correctional Facility and out of terrible conditions in the Wayne County Jail. Searcy waved to his dozens of supporters as he left the courtroom.

Related stories:













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Declaration comes one day before 70th anniversary of  occupation of Palestine by Israel, supported by U.S., U.K., western nations

Published on May 14, 2018

At least 52 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip as anger rages on over the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem al-Quds. There were six teenagers aged 15 and 16 among those killed. More than 2400 protesters were wounded, 900 of them with live rounds fired by Israeli soldiers.

Clashes have been underway on Monday, the day the US embassy was relocated to Jerusalem al-Quds. The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of massacring the protesters in Gaza. It says moving US embassy to al-Quds would fuel instability and incitement in the region. The Palestinian Liberation Organization has called for a general strike. There have been confrontations between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army and settlers in Bethlehem and East Jerusalem al-Quds. Watch Live: http://www.presstv.com/live.html


Related: Israeli violence in Gaza sparks international condemnation


Israeli troops killed at least 58 Palestinians along the Gaza border on Monday, health ministry officials said, as demonstrators streamed to the frontier as the United States opens its embassy in Jerusalem.

Amid deadly clashes, President Donald Trump’s top aides and supporters are celebrating the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem as a campaign promised fulfilled.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman greets Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at Ben-Gurion airport prior to embassy ceremonies.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, along with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were leading the ceremonies. 

Turkish Foreign Ministry called US actions null and void in an official statement.

“We strongly condemn the decision of the US Administration to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem violating international law and all relevant UN Resolutions,” Ankara said.

Protests intensified on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, with loudspeakers on Gaza mosques urging Palestinians to join a “Great March of Return”. Black smoke from tires burned by demonstrators rose into the air at the border.

“Today is the big day when we will cross the fence and tell Israel and the world we will not accept being occupied forever,” said Gaza science teacher Ali, who declined to give his last name.

A Palestinian woman walks through black smoke from burning tires during a protest on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, Monday, May 14, 2018. Thousands of Palestinians are protesting near Gaza’s border with Israel, as Israel prepared for the festive inauguration of a new U.S. Embassy in contested Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

“Many may get martyred today, so many, but the world will hear our message. Occupation must end,” he said.

Israeli troops killed 55 Palestinians on Monday, including a 12-year-old boy and a man in a wheelchair, and over 2,000 protesters were injured. The man in the wheelchair had been pictured on social media using a slingshot.

The killings have drawn international criticism, but the United States, which has angered the Palestinians and Arab powers by relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, has echoed Israel in accusing Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement of instigating violence, an allegation it denies.

“What a moving day for the people of Israel and the State of Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, said on Twitter that “taking the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it.”

Rami Hamdallah, Palestinian Prime Minister

But Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and the relocation of the embassy were “blatant violations of international law”

The Palestinians, who want their own future state with its capital in East Jerusalem, have been outraged by Trump’s shift from previous administrations’ preference for keeping the US Embassy in Tel Aviv pending progress in peace efforts.

Those talks have been frozen since 2014. Other international powers worry that the US move could also inflame Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank, which Israel captured along with East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel’s military dropped leaflets into the enclave early on Monday, warning Palestinians “not to serve as a tool of Hamas” or approach or damage Israel’s frontier fence.

But thousands of Palestinians massed at five locations along the line. Of the 35 people wounded by Israeli gunfire, four were journalists, the officials said.

The Israeli military says its troops are defending the border and firing in accordance with the rules of engagement.

“We are prepared to face the Hamas threats to disrupt the (embassy) festivities,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted.

“My recommendation to the residents of Gaza: Don’t be blinded by (Hamas’s Gaza leader, Yehya Al-) Sinwar, who is sending your children to sacrifice their lives without any utility. We will defend our citizens with all measures and will not allow the fence to be crossed.”

The protests are scheduled to culminate on Tuesday, the day Palestinians mourn as the “Nakba” or “Catastrophe” when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of them were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting around Israel’s creation.

Palestinian demonstrator with a slingshot looks on during a protest against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem and ahead of the 70th anniversary of Nakba, at the Israel-Gaza border. (Reuters)

“Choosing a tragic day in Palestinian history (to open the Jerusalem embassy) shows great insensibility and disrespect for the core principles of the peace process,” Hamdallah wrote.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that moving their embassies now would prejudge any such deal.

But Guatemala, which received support from Israel in its counter-insurgency campaigns in the 1980s, plans to open an embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Its ambassador visited the new site, in an office building in the western part of the city, on Monday. Paraguay is to follow suit later this month,

In London, the British government said it had no plans to move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and said it disagreed with the US decision to do so. The Russian government said it feared the embassy move would increase tensions across the Middle East.


(Excerpt) White House iterates support for Israel in wake of Gaza Strip riots, says ‘no justification for Hamas recklessness, cynicism’; South Africa recalls ambassador after condemning Israel’s ‘violent aggression on Gaza border’; UN Security Council to convene to discuss riots, deaths of 52 Palestinians.

Itamar Eichner

Ynet News

May 14, 2018

Sisa Ngombane, South Africa Ambassador to Israel

The White House blamed Hamas leaders Monday evening for the deadly violence in Gaza earlier in the day—in which 52 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,200 wounded—and said Israel has a right to defend itself.

“There is no justification for the recklessness and cynicism Hamas has shown in urging people to engage in violence that exposes them to terrible risk. As the Secretary of State has said, Israel has a right to defend itself,” a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a statement.

The official further maintained a solution needed to be found to the “serious humanitarian challenges facing Palestinians” in Gaza.

Conversely, the South African government has decided to recall its ambassador to Israel after issuing a harsh condemnation of “Israeli armed forces’ violent aggression on the Gaza border.”

 The Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed that the ambassador has indeed been called back, and will fly back to the African country Monday night.

 The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said that the Gazan casualties were “taking part in a peaceful protest against the provocative inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.”  

Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza May 14, 2018

“Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack,” the department’s statement continued, “the South African government has taken a decision to recall Ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect until further notice.”

The statement further called on Israel to “withdraw from the Gaza Strip and bring to an end the violent and destructive incursions into Palestinian territories”, adding that the violence in the strip may scuttle the rebuilding of Palestinian institutions and infrastructures alike.

“The routine actions of Israeli forces present yet another obstacle to a permanent resolution to the conflict,” South Africa alleged, “which must come in the form of two states—Palestine and Israel—existing side by side in peace.”

Palestinians in Gaza fight back against Israel, U.S.

“Like other members of the international community, South Africa is disturbed by the latest deadly aggression and reiterates calls for an independent inquiry into the killings, with a view to holding to account those who are responsible,” the statement concluded.

Fifty-two Palestinians, eight children among them, were killed Monday after coming close to the Gaza border fence. Some 40,000 people demonstrated in the area, and 1,204 were wounded, according to Gaza medical sources—marking the highest Palestinian single-day death toll since Operation Protective Edge.

The IDF attacked a series of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets using aircraft and tanks, in retaliation to Palestinians shooting and lobbing explosives at IDF forces earlier.

The Palestinian Authority has declared three national days of mourning starting Tuesday, and a general strike on Tuesday itself.

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Thelonious Searcy (r) reviews trial documents with defense atty. Michael Deszi during hearing May 9, 2018.


Ballistics expert says ET picked up 9 mm. casing at scene of Jamal Segars Sept. 4, 2004 murder; casing listed with same ET number as .40 caliber slug 

Smothers  testified earlier cops fired guns after Segars killing, but that he and accomplice had only .40 and .45 caliber guns

AP Muscat, who prosecuted Searcy and Davontae Sanford, testifies without written corroboration

Note from city FOIA attorney cites second fatality at scene of Segars killing, in “burgundy Marauder” which cops’ car crashed into while pursuing Smothers accomplice judge orders further investigation

Michael Witcher likely a police plant in bullpen with Searcy May 9; is uncle of chief pros. trial witness, nut not scheduled for hearing that day

 By Diane Bukowski

 May 10, 2018/UPDATED May 11, 2018 

Forensics expert David Balash testifies at Searcy hearing May 9, 2018

DETROIT – Independent forensics expert David Balash testified May 9 at the Thelonious Searcy evidentiary hearing that matching evidence tag numbers for a 40 caliber slug and a 9 mm. bullet casing related to the murder of Jamal Segars Sept. 4, 2004 showed at least that an evidence technician picked up and listed the 9 mm. casing at the scene of the murder.

Self-confessed hitman Vincent Smothers had testified March 19 that he committed the Segars murder, for which Searcy is serving a life sentence, and also that police fired their guns at the scene. Police had denied doing so. Smothers said he used a .40 caliber gun to kill Segars, while Daniels had a .45 caliber gun, which he fired into the air once.

During a second hearing March 28, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny ordered the contents of a sealed envelope from the now-closed Detroit crime lab, presented at the hearing, to be examined at the Michigan State Police crime lab. Balash testified that the envelope contained a full metal-jacketed 4o caliber bullet, red-tagged with the number ET #E07191604.

However, a 9 mm. shell casing is listed with the same number in a report of items from the crime scene, dated 9/16/2004.  The Detroit crime lab closed in 2008 due to its excessive error record, which resulted in false convictions for hundreds of prisoners. Searcy himself discovered the conflict while examining records from his case.

“Confusing a 9 mm casing and 40 caliber slug is like confusing a cherry and a watermelon,” Balash said. “One is a casing, which you normally find at the scene where the gun was fired. A bullet is normally removed from an object or person after the shooting.”

The 40 caliber slug allegedly fell out of Segars’ body at the medical examiner’s office. But the medical examiner’s report said that the three “bullet fragments” recovered from Segars’ body were too deformed to be classified.

Smothers testified March 19 that he approached Segars’ silver Corvette from behind during a bumper-to-bumper “Black Party” outside Detroit City Airport and fired numerous bullets into him, after stalking him for several months. He said he and his accomplice Jeffery Daniels fled the scene as a Detroit police car began pursuing Daniels on his way back to the car he had come in, but the police car crashed into a burgundy-colored Marauder coming out of a store parking lot on Conner.  He said the passenger in the police car got out and began firing at them.

Defense attorney Dezsi next called Asst. Prosecutor Patrick Muscat to the stand. Muscat prosecuted Segars during his trial in 2005, and also prosecuted Davontae Sanford, 14, in 2008 for four killings Smothers also confessed to, leading to Sanford’s release after nine years in prison. A Michigan State Police investigation of the so-called “Runyon Street murders” turned up DPD reports from the night of the 2007 killings which quoted two eyewitnesses who described the killer as “taller and older” than Sanford, among other DPD reports that never should have led to Sanford’s arrest.

AP Patrick Muscat testifies at Searcy hearing May 9, 2018.

Muscat skirted a question about whether Searcy knew Segars, replying instead that it was a case of “transferred intent,” where Searcy thought the driver of the silver Corvette was DeAnthony Witcher, the chief prosecution witness at his trial.

Muscat denied knowing anything about why the prosecutor’s file in the Segars case is missing, but then proceeded to testify without any written corroboration of his allegations. He said the file had been re-examined while he was in charge of Pros. Kym Worthy’s initial “Conviction Integrity Unit” established to investigate the DPD crime lab errors, but disappeared after that.

Muscat claimed he disclosed at Searcy’s trial that Segars had a federal drug conviction in 1993, for which he spent five years in prison. Smothers said earlier in his confession to the Segars murder that Segars played a major role in the Detroit drug scene. Dezsi unsuccessfully asked him for written confirmation that he turned the evidence of that conviction over to then defense attorney Robert Mitchell, now deceased. Smothers normally targeted people in the drug trade.

Muscat testified that Searcy and DeAnthony Witcher had an ongoing feud, and that Witcher was driving a silver Corvette that was a “twin” to Segars’ car during the Black Party. However, Dezsi presented a copy of an extensive DPD arrest report of Witcher dated Nov. 18, 2004 that showed he was stopped and arrested by DPD officers for carrying a concealed weapon in a BLUE Corvette, a black and silver 9 mm. Smith and Wesson.

(See full defense motion at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Searcy.Mtn_.Compel-1.pdf )

DeAnthony Witcher

DeAnthony Witcher in police photo line-up.

“On Nov. 30, 2004, the same day that Mr. Searcy was arrested for the murder of Jamal Segars, the CCW case against Witcher was ‘closed’ with a notation that “P.A. . .warrant denied,” Dezsi wrote in a “Defendant’s Motion to Compel Production of Documents Directed to Wayne County Prosecutor,” dated April 19, 2017.

Deszi questioned whether “the prosecution or law enforcement offered Witcher some sort of leniency in exchange for his cooperation and testimony in this matter . . .Apart from Smothers’ confession (which will be briefed and argued separately from this instant motion), the Court should have serious doubts about whether Defendant has been subject to a grave miscarriage of justice sufficient to grant relief under MCR 6.502.”

He asked Judge Kenny to “draw a negative inference from the prosecutor’s failure to produce such files.”

Muscat claimed he had turned over all documents including a record of Witcher’s CCW arrest to the defense, again with no corroboration since the prosecutor’s file is missing and the defense attorney Robert Mitchell has passed.

At one point during his testimony, Muscat said that the gun which killed Segars was found in Searcy’s home. In fact, DPD took possession of a .45 caliber gun that belonged to Smother’s accessory Jeffery Robinson when they charged into Searcy’s grandmother’s home without a warrant to arrest Searcy. Smothers said he killed Segars with a .40 caliber gun.

Thelonious Searcy with wife and young daughter in wedding photo.

During the DPD invasion of Edna Richardson’s home, officers mistreated and terrified Searcy’s young wife and two toddler daughters. Both his wife and daughters have come to his ongoing evidentiary hearings to support him.

Muscat also admitted that DeAnthony Witcher was reluctant to testify against Searcy, because he did not want to be known as a “snitch.” He was subjected to a prosecutor’s investigative subpoena, under which testimony is taken without the presence of a defense attorney. When he still did not agree to testify, Judge Kenny issued an order of “use immunity” that would bar his testimony from being used against him in other matters.

In a bizarre turn of events, Dezsi also introduced a letter from a former Detroit Law Department attorney, Kathy Christian  addressed to Sgt. William Anderson, the Officer in Charge of Searcy’s prosecution, indicating that a second fatality had been reported at the scene. (See below.) Dezsi said the attorney was a classmate and colleague of his who died under unclear circumstances later. Judge Kenny ordered Sgt. Anderson to appear at another hearing May 15 at 2 p.m., to address that matter, along with evidence technician Patricia Little.

In the letter, Christian writes, 


In another bizarre turn of events, deputy sheriffs took Searcy back to the bullpen which originally contained three other prisoners, during a break, but a fourth prisoner had been added.

That prisoner turned out to be Michael Witcher, an uncle of DeAnthony Witcher who was not known to Searcy. Searcy says Witcher started to question him about the case and continued with a full discussion in front of the other inmates, until Searcy asked the deputies to get his attorney. Virtual chaos ensued.

Dezsi says he told the deputies that Searcy and Witcher should not be in the same bullpen, and that they agreed to separate them. Jail and court records show that Witcher was arrested April 23, 2018 for “assault with intent to commit murder,” and was not scheduled for a hearing on the charges until May 15, 2018, so he should not have been in the bullpen at all.

Michael Witcher was NOT scheduled for May 9 court hearing.

Searcy said he earlier heard a Deputy Sheriff named “Outlaw” call several times to find out when Witcher was being sent to the bullpen, and that he told Sheriff Outlaw that DeAnthony Witcher was the chief prosecution witness in his case.

The Wayne County Jail has been notorious for its system of recruiting “snitches” to testify against defendants in exchange for leniency and other favors in the jail. (See article on “Ring of Snitches” listed below.) Searcy said he is well aware of this and is extremely careful about talking to anyone about his case.

Scott Lewis, the private investigator hired by Searcy’s grandmother to interview Vincent Smothers and others in this case, told VOD he believes that state legislation must be passed to regulate the use of such “snitches.”

Judge Kenny set Searcy’s next, and hopefully final, hearing for Tues. May 15 at 2 p.m. He may need to reschedule Michael Witcher’s hearing, also scheduled on that date as listed above, to avoid any further problems.












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Detroit People’s Task Force, Inc., C.D.C. rejuvenated during forum April 28, 2018; Pres. Marilyn Jordan 2nd from left; DPTF founded in 2009

Plans to reach out to other groups to form a united front

Judge Deborah Thomas keynotes T.I.M.E. forum

D.T.P.F. President Marilyn Jordan regenerating group formed 9 yrs. ago

By Diane Bukowski

May 6, 2018

The late Kevin Carey (l), Exec. Director of the Detroit People’s Task Force, with family members of prisoners convicted due to crime lab errors, at City Council May 11, 2009; Marilyn Jordan is in pink suit 2nd from right.

DETROIT – The Detroit People’s Task Force, Inc., C.D.C., founded in 2009 by prisoners and their families to advocate for their needs after the shutdown of the corrupt Detroit crime lab, is rejuvenating itself.  

Its president Marilyn Jordan and officers say they also want to reach out to similar groups to build a united front in the face of increased mass incarceration particularly of Black youth, and desperate conditions in the community.

On Sat. April 28, the Task Force sponsored a forum “Teaching Inmate Mothers Empowerment” (T.I.M.E.), meant to build a support team for women with loved ones in prison, and discuss plans for the future. It was interspersed with apiritually directed musical and dance performances,

The keynote speaker was Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Deborah Thomas, who has been on the bench since 1994, over 25 years. Judge Thomas ran twice as a Democratic candidate for Michigan Supreme Court, and earlier led a broad community-based battle to increase the number of Black jurors in Third Circuit Court.

 “There was a time—when we were doing a lot of things that we’re not doing now,” Judge Thomas said. “We thought we had overcome, so we quit doing it. But our condition hasn’t really changed. As the slaves were freed and the laws were changed and those things that were once misdemeanors or ordinance violations became felonies, our men were picked up for just walking down the road and shipped off to prison in large numbers.”

Judge Thomas spoke on behalf of Black youths in particular, who come before her bench in court. She said when they come there accused of stealing cars, she sends them to school instead. She said many youth have lost any hope for the future.

Police place Detroit Central High School youth on bus after mass raid inside school during dismantling of Detroit Public School system.

“When they come, many of them are approaching a point where they are about to go into the 11th or 12th grade, and they have no idea of what opportunities are available,” Judge Thomas said. “Just because you see three colored boys on a corner doesn’t mean that’s a gang. . . They need employment opportunities. We need to enlarge the scope of their world, let them know that there’s more than basketball, boxing and football.”

She said that where once laws prohibited Blacks from certain housing, employment and schools, and the civil rights movement changed some of that, “all they did was take out ‘colored’ and put in ‘felon.’” She said former President Bill Clinton got legislation passed allowing states to deny food stamps to people with felonies, especially drug-related offenses. Now, she said, there is a push in Michigan to establish similar penalties for people with misdemeanors.

She called on the members of the Detroit People’s Task Force to reach out and establish chapters all over the state.

“We’ve got to have the folks in the suburbs, too,” she said. “There’s heroin there too. People everywhere are self-medicating with heroin, cocaine, and meth. Take the hand of another mother of another color who’s feeling the same pain.”


The DPTF  fought for freedom for years for hundreds of prisoners falsely convicted by corrupted forensic and ballistics evidence from the Detroit Police Crime Lab. The lab was found to have a 10 percent error rate in test results, and a 40 percent error rate in compliance with national forensics examination standards and was permanently shut down in 2009.

The DTPF demanded the creation of a scientific lab independent of law enforcement, excluding Prosecutor Kym Worthy and the Detroit Police Department, which were found to be complicit in producing faulty results, since many employed at the lab were also police personnel.

Praise Dancers Allyson Pelt and Tameka Fluellen during program.

However, Worthy campaigned with the City Council for more and more funding for the prosecutor’s office to conduct the crime lab review. In the end, partnering with the State Appellate Defender’s Office, she limited cases to be reviewed to convictions between 2003 and 2008, and of those, found only four with questionable lab results. Marilyn Jordan’s own son Kelly Nobles, one of the DPTF founders, did not have his case reviewed since it was a 2002 conviction. He is serving a term of life without parole.

In a total travesty, Worthy recommended that all four prisoners be re-tried and they were sent back to prison.

Michael Harris, victim of MSP crime lab errors.

One of the most ardent prisoner founders of the DPTF was Michael Harris, who has been serving five life terms and a 60-90 year sentence for the rape-murders of elderly women in the Lansing and central Michigan areas. Two years ago, the Detroit Free Press and TruthinForensics.org exposed the fact that the Michigan State Police Crime Lab had falsely identified DNA in one case, which was in fact linked to another man. Investigations of the other cases are ongoing, but Harris has been incarcerated since 1982 for the crimes. The man whose actual DNA was discovered in the one case has never been arrested.

The DPTF, whose mothers and families have yet to find justice for their wrongfully convicted loved ones, pledged at the forum April 28 to continue the battle, broadening its fronts. In addition to functioning as a support group for those with loved ones in prison, they have also formulated a broad-ranging mission:










Read their entire program inside the brochure above at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Detroit-Peoples-Task-Force-program.pdf


Phone: 313-784-4021 Fax: 248-443-4979 detroitpeoplestaskforceinc@aol.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/DPTFInc/ 

Related stories:










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Some of Jose Burgos’ family, including his sister Prieta (speaking) and his grandmother Adella Jimenez (to Prieta’s left) speak with his attorney Michael Dezsi after hearing. The entire courtroom was packed with Burgos’ family and supporters, who pledged to help him re-integrate into the community.

Judge Ulysses Boykin sentences Burgos to 30 to 60 years

With good time credits, earliest release date  June 1, 2017

Burgos a model prisoner involved in numerous corrective programs

Victim Ayman Kaji also addresses the court

By Diane Bukowski

May 5, 2018

Jose Burgos addresses court, with atty. Michael Dezsi at his side.

DETROIT – Jose Burgos is one of the 247 Michigan juvenile lifers for whom  prosecutors recommended continued terms of life without parole.  At the age of 16, he shot and killed Omar Kaji, and paralyzed his twin brother Ayman Kaji, twenty-seven years ago, in a drug deal gone bad on Detroit’s southwest side.

Apparently, various prosecutors, including in Wayne County, are beginning to re-assess their recommendations in some of the 247 cases.

On May 3, in a highly emotional hearing packed with Burgos’ family and friends, Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Ulysses Boykin re-sentenced Burgos to 30 to 60 years. The sentence made him eligible for parole as of June 1, 2017, according to terms of a U.S. District Court decision that restored “good time” credits to the state’s juvenile lifers.

Burgos’ attorney Michael Dezsi told his family afterwards that five years of such credits were restored to Burgos, and that it is possible he will see the parole board the next time it visits the Thumb Correctional Facility this June.

The sentence was based on a settlement agreement between the prosecution and the defense which gave up Burgos’ right to appeal or file a motion for relief from judgment.

“Until the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v.  Alabama (2012),” Dezsi told the Court, “Mr. Burgos had every expectation that he was going to spend the rest of his life incarcerated. Notwithstanding him knowing that and notwithstanding having that sort of dark shadow over him,  Mr. Burgos did the opposite to make himself productive and make himself positive in every way that he could.”

Burgos and his attorney outlined the many programs to which he has dedicated himself to at the Thumb Correctional Facility. They include mentoring of at-risk youth, acting as a monitor for prisoners on suicide watch, and training leadership dogs for disabled people. He also mentors offenders between the ages of 17-24 under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA), which allows them to keep offenses off their record if they comply with the program’s requirements.

“I can’t imagine what it’s like for a mother to have twin sons, and every time she looks at her [surviving] son’s face she’s reminded of her other son,” Burgos told the court.  “I was 16 at the time. Since then, I have really looked at my crimes and want to give the rest of my life to others.”

He added, “The job I am doing now I will do for the rest of my life. When I was given the opportunity to train service dogs, I hoped to give back the independence I took from [Ayman]  to someone else. When I was 13 my mother committed suicide, then my life started going on a downward spiral. Now I’m able to explain to others the impact of taking your own life. I’ll never stop trying to repair the damage I did. I’m really thankful to my family and supporters. My whole purpose in life is to make some good come out of this tragedy.”

Burgos was responding to heart-rending phone call testimony from Ayman Kaji, during which Kaji emphasized that Burgos’ actions had essentially “killed” his entire family.

Jose Burgos’ mother Maria de Lourdes Martinez with boyfriend. She committed suicide when Burgos was 13.

“My twin brother being killed is one thing, me being paralyzed is another,” Kaji told the court. “What Jose Burgos did was not just kill my brother or paralyze me, but he killed my family, my sisters, my mother. For 27 years my mom has been my caregiver. My mom has got the strength, she is religious and has remained strong. She is the one that feeds me, bathes me, and does everything for me.  I heard today that Jose has changed his life and done good. God bless him for that. I didn’t want to call into this court today to try to give him the maximum time or anything like that, but I just want him and his family to understand how it feels when they talk about his grandma—you can just imagine how my nephews and nieces feel when I can’t play with them or do anything for them.”

In an earlier article VOD staff writer Cortez Davis, a re-sentenced juvenile lifer also at the Thumb facility, added to Burgos’ list of achievements.

“Doug Little and Jose Burgos co-founded The Think Tank Bookclub and Workshop,” Davis wrote. “This program is designed to promote reading and critical thinking among those that will one day return to society. The men mentor one another as a representation of positive reinforcement which is something that all people need in their lives. While the program is fairly new to the Thumb Correctional Facility, it has already gained the attention of an author of one of the books explored in the program.”

That author was Shawn T. Blanchard, who wrote “How ‘Bout That for a Crack Baby,” and who spoke to the Thumb’s entire population at the invitation of Little and Burgos.

Below: Interlochen Public Radio interview with Jose Burgos




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Siwatu-Salama Ra with daughter and husband/Courtesy of the Ra family


Jane Coaston 

May4, 2018

She had a concealed carry permit. The gun wasn’t even loaded. Now she’s facing two years in prison.

Last summer, a Black woman in Michigan defended herself, her mother, and her 2-year-old daughter with a registered (and unloaded) gun against a woman who she and her attorneys say tried to hit them with a car. She was a concealed carry permit holder and living in an open carry state — one with a “stand your ground” law in place.

Now, Siwatu-Salama Ra is serving a two-year prison sentence at Huron Valley Correctional Facility for felonious assault and felony firearm convictions. She’s seven months pregnant, and according to her attorneys, she’s receiving insufficient medical care — including being shackled to her bed during a vaginal exam — even though her pregnancy is high-risk. The case is under appeal, but the judge deciding Ra’s fate, Thomas Hathaway, has already denied a request to postpone Ra’s sentence until she gives birth.

Siwatu -Salama Ra, at age 15, speaks at a regional youth climate conference in front of hundreds of college students in Madison, Wisconsin in 2007.

 Ra’s case is yet another instance of a black gun owner, with the permits to legally carry, defending themselves against violence — and getting punished for it.

I spoke with Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who told me, “Siwatu should be home getting ready to deliver her baby, and being with her family. Instead, she is suffering and isolated being punished for protecting herself, her child and [her] mother. This is a shameful, shameful reality, and it’s clear that we need to challenge a criminal justice system that would try a pregnant black woman for upholding ‘stand your ground’ laws and her Second Amendment rights.”

Black gun owners, particularly black women, face unequal treatment under local laws.

 While concealed carry permit application numbers for both black Americans and women are rising steadily, and the number of Black gun owners in total has spiked since the 2016 election, they have long been unable to access the same protections their white neighbors enjoy when it comes to exercising their gun rights, including in “stand your ground” states.

The Urban Institute found that in “stand your ground” states, when white shooters kill Black people, 34 percent of the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable. Only 3 percent of deaths are ruled justifiable when the shooter is Black and the victim is white. Even when Black shooters kill Black people, those shootings are less likely to be deemed justifiable in a court of law than those involving white shooters who kill white people.

Maj Toure

Maj Toure, founder of Black Guns Matter, a gun rights association aimed at urban communities and Black Americans, told me that too often, local governments “drop the ball” when it comes to protecting the gun rights of Black Americans. He referenced the case of Marissa Alexander, who served three years in prison for firing a single shot near her husband, who she said had threatened to kill her.

“You have situations where women defending their lives are sent to jail for the dumbest s— on earth. [A man] attempts to attack [a woman] and instead of killing the man, [she] shoots in the air, and that woman is facing years,” he said. “Those scenarios are outrageous and mass media and public outrage is heightened, but justice for these situations is trash.”

Making matters worse, while Black Lives Matter and other left-leaning civil rights organizations have been publicizing Ra’s case and others like it, mainstream pro-gun groups, including the National Rifle Association, have been dispiritingly quiet about the incident — though the “stand your ground” law in place in Michigan, passed in 2006, was made possible by a group working in close contact with the NRA.

Marissa Alexander released from prison.

In 2012, the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) put out a statement saying “stand your ground” legislation allows “lawful people to defend themselves, and deters would-be murderers, rapists and robbers.” NRA-ILA executive director Chris W. Cox said in 2013 that “self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right.”

In a response on Twitter, NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch said that she had discussed the case on NRATV and on her radio show, but there appear to be no mentions of the case on the NRA website or social media platforms. I’ve reached out to the group for comment on the case.

Rhonda Anderson, Ra’s mother, is an organizing manager for the Sierra Club and has been outspoken in her daughter’s defense. In a statement to Vox, she said:

“My daughter Siwatu has been a powerful force for justice in Detroit and across the globe since she was just a young teenager. When she was 19 years old, she took on polluters like the Marathon Oil Refinery and the Detroit Renewable Power trash incinerator. As co-director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council, she planned an environmental justice conference to bring folks from around the country to Detroit — that conference will be happening without her this month as she is incarcerated.”


Siwatu-Salama Ra in 2014, at a gathering for climate justice in Richmond, CA/C0urtesy of Shadia Fayne Wood/Survival Media

In July of last year, Ra, a prominent environmental activist in Detroit and co-director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC), was in the midst of a long-running argument with Channell Harvey, the parent of a girl who had been fighting with Ra’s niece at school. When Harvey brought her daughter to the home of Ra’s mother, Rhonda Anderson, for a sleepover on July 16, Ra asked the girl to leave.  What follows is still unclear. At first, Harvey told police that when she returned to pick up her daughter from Anderson’s home, Ra threatened her, then pulled a gun out of her car after saying, “I got something for you.” Harvey then told police that she took pictures of Ra holding the gun, and then drove to the police station and filed a complaint.

But that’s not what Ra and her family say happened. In a video made for supporters of Ra’s case, Ra said that Harvey was “literally going back and forth with this car, putting it in reverse and fixing herself to come at us again, and go after my mother, who was also standing very close to me and wasn’t able to run.”

Harvey later told police that she may have “accidentally” hit Ra’s car while leaving Anderson’s property. According to Ra, she then pulled her 2-year-old daughter out of her car (where she had been playing during the dispute), then grabbed her unloaded handgun out of her car and pointed it at Harvey. After Harvey left, Ra also filed a police report.

The problem is, Harvey filed her report first. And in Detroit, the first person to file a report gets to become the “victim” in a legal dispute. According to the Detroit Metro Times:

“During the trial, a DPD detective testified that the department considers the person who arrives at the police station first to be the victim, lawyers say. Thus, detectives were not allowed to speak to Ra directly.”

That wasn’t the only problem during Ra’s trial. First and foremost, the jury — which, according to one of Ra’s attorneys, Victoria Burton-Harris, was “very diverse” — wasn’t informed that the gun charges carried a mandatory prison sentence of two years. The trial was held with a snowstorm looming, which Burton-Harris told the Metro Times led to the jury making too quick of a decision on a verdict — one that found that Ra was guilty of assaulting Harvey but was acting in self-defense toward Harvey’s daughter (who was in the passenger seat and, notably, not driving the car.)

And according to questions sent to the judge during deliberations, the jury was very focused on why Ra’s gun was in her car, where her daughter was playing — an issue that wasn’t part of the case presented to them.

But Burton-Harris told me that she’ll never really know what went into the jury’s decision, saying, “I wasn’t in the room.”

Today, Siwatu-Salama Ra is in prison, in the only correctional facility in Michigan that houses women — one with severe overcrowding problems and structural issues. There she will stay, away from her young daughter and in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy. Because she defended herself with a legally owned — and unloaded — gun, in a state where doing so appears to be perfectly legal. And for now, the NRA, the nation’s most vigorous defender of the right to bear arms, is curiously and conspicuously silent.

As Burton-Harris told me, “This case was simple — a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, an activist was afraid — and it didn’t matter. Her fear wasn’t significant enough for a jury of her peers to believe it. We’ll never know what more she needed to endure to justify her fear. She stood her ground and is now serving a mandatory two-year prison term. It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Related from VOD:


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Presiding Criminal Court Judge Timothy Kenny confers with (l) AP Thomas Chambers and (r) defense atty. Michael Deszi March 27, 2018

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

A cell inside Wayne County’s old jail at 525 Clinton. 

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.

Entrance to the old Wayne County Jail, built in the 1920’s.

“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 “Shawn” Searcy walks into court March 26, 2018.

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.

Defense atty. Michael Dezsi

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.

DPD arrest report on DeAnthony Witcher for carrying a concealed weapon in his car, also shows him driving a BLUE Corvette, not a silver Corvette.

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.”

DeAnthony Witcher

DeAnthony Witcher in police photo line-up.

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.

Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy and Mich. AG Bill Schuette, both fervent opponents of justice for juvenile lifers, showing off rape kit. Worthy is conducting a large PR campaign gathering huge amounts of money to process lost rape kits.

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?

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Leaders of the Original Detroit People’s Task Force take on crime lab atrocities May 16, 2011; victims like Michael Harris still incarcerated.


Pastor Kevin Clark on the third anniversary of his son Anthony Clark Reed’s killing by police, May 30, 2015, also asks the community to come out to help the homeless.



Earlier fundraiser to keep Maryanne Godboldo’s battle alive.



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