East side Detroit father Joshua Lewis, 30, killed by gas station Mini-Mart clerk wh0 shot AK-47 rifle through safety glass Oct. 12
Clerk, said to be brother of 76 Mini-Mart station owner, arrested, now free
Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy returned DPD warrant asking for extensive additional information–will perp free the country?
Family calls on community to boycott, shut station down
By sister Tiffany Lewis, from Joshua Lewis GoFundMe Page
October 12, 2020
Joshua Lewis, Detroit dad killed at age 30 by clerk in 76 MiniMart at 10700 Gratiot, Detroit
Joshua Lewis was a loving father, brother, son, and husband. Monday, October 12, 2020, while patronizing the local 76 Gas Station located at 10070 Gratiot on Detroit’s east side, he was gunned down by an 18-year-old gas station attendant.
Josh was playing a video game that malfunctioned, taking his money. While attempting to shake the machine to get his cash back and posing no harm or threat to others, he was then shot by the clerk FROM BEHIND THE COUNTER THROUGH the bullet glass. Our loving brother suffered a fatal wound to the head from an AK47 assault rifle.
The community has shown up to support our family and subsequently shut down this unlicensed business whose owners and workers have disrespected and unjustly caused a tremendous loss to our community.
One comment: David Chami donated $500 From a middle-eastern civil rights attorney. I don’t know exactly what happened but Joshua didn’t need to die. Our communities should be working with – not against one another. My deepest condolences
CLERK FREED: WAYNE CO. PROS. KYM WORTHY DECLINED WARRANT AFTER ARREST BY DPD
By Diane Bukowski
October 17, 2020
Joshua Lewis with newborn child. Lewis was the father of 5 children. Family photo
DETROIT-– Despite prominent mainstream media reports on the killing of Joshua Lewis Oct. 12, the 76 Mini-Mart clerk arrested Oct. 12 for killing him has been released.
The clerk, who is the station owner’s brother according to WXYZ Channel 7, was arrested at the scene, and a DPD warrant request was submitted Oct. 14.
But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy returned the warrant to Detroit police requesting extensive additional information, according to a release from her office. See:
Worthy wants police reports from every officer involved, the medical examiner’s report, the EMS run sheet, the witness list, and discovery for the defense, among other items. She said her office has returned 20 such warrant requests recently for similar reasons.
“Warrants are often rejected due to a lack of admissible evidence or a failure to fully garner all the available evidence at the initial stage,” the release says.
Kym Worthy at Arab-American Political Action Committee fundraiser earlier this year. Photo: Arab-American news
“An early legal review of the available evidence–when resources permit–along with the early collaboration between the WCPO and DPD, enhances the warrant review process and will be a savings in both time and effort.”
It would take longer than 48-72 hours for police to produce all the items listed, which is the amount of time a suspect can be held without an arraignment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991) that arrestees must be arraigned within 48 hours. Detroit police normally adhere to a 72 hour limit.
So the clerk was released Oct. 15, without arraignment, bond, or evaluation of his ability to flee the jurisdiction. Not even his name has been published. Many in the community say that Black detainees do not receive such cautious treatment.
“He should have stayed behind the safety of his glass and called the police if he was shoplifting. That didn’t give him a right to take somebody’s life,” said Zeek of New Era Detroit,” Channel 4 News reported. “Multiple organizations, like New Era Detroit and the People’s Action are trying to make sure nobody does business at the gas station anytime soon.”
The mainstream media reports that the 76 Mini-Mart has no business license. Wayne County Property Tax records say the current owner of the site at 10700 Gratiot is the “Bank of America Corporation ATT,” meaning the property was likely foreclosed. VOD was not able to locate any solid information about the previous owner’s name.
Detroit residents picketed the Sunoco gas station where Kalvin Porter was killed in 1999 on a daily basis for months afterwards. The station remained closed until recent years. Photo: Diane Bukowski
Unfortunately, incidents such as the killing of Joshua Lewis have occurred often in Detroit’s history.
In 1999, the city was on the brink of a mini-rebellion after Kalvin Porter, 34 and unarmed, was killed by two gas station clerks at a Sunoco gas station located blocks from the Mini-Mart, at Gratiot and Mack.
“The beating death of an unarmed black man in front of his children at a neighborhood gas station has sparked four days of protests here that have brought into the open the festering racial tensions between blacks and Arab-Americans who own many small businesses in the inner city,” the New York Times reported.
“The black man, Kalvin Porter, 34, got into a fight with two Arab-American clerks at the gas station [May 14, 1999] after one made an inappropriate remark to Mr. Porter’s 12-year-old stepdaughter, the police said. Mr. Porter, who was also accompanied by his four young children, was then beaten to death by the clerks, one of whom was carrying a lug wrench, according to police reports and Chief Benny Napoleon of the Detroit police. The clerks, Fadhel Mazeb, 46, and Adel Altam, 26, were charged with second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty. They remain in custody.”
Kalvin Porter’s wife Barbara Ann Wright with four of their children, and attorneys including Melissa El (l) who sued the gas station owner and Sunoco in Kalvin Porter’s death. Photo: Diane Bukowski
This reporter, working for the Michigan Citizen weekly newspaper, covered the trial of the two clerks, who had immigrated from Yemen.
During a contentious trial, the judge declared a mistrial in Altam’s case. Mazeb was acquitted after the jury received no explanation about Altam’s disappearance from trial proceedings.
Fearing retaliation, the two fled the country afterwards.
The Michigan Citizen reported afterwards that the judge had received substantial campaign finance donations from suburban Middle Eastern business interests and professionals.
The same is true of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Various wealthy suburban Arab-American organizations including the Arab-American Political Action Committee held lucrative fund-raisers for her throughout her recent re-election campaign. Other beneficiaries of such largesse include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and numerous judges of Wayne County’s Third Judicial Circuit Court.
Joshua Lewis /family phot0
“The dynamic is the same in every location,” Salim Muwakkil of the Baltimore Sun wrote in 1999 about the killing of Kalvin Porter.
“A culturally coherent immigrant group arrives with a work ethic and willingness to locate in America’s least attractive (but easily exploitable) neighborhoods — predominantly black inner cities. Although these neighborhoods have been victimized by economic disinvestment . . .many African-Americans nonetheless are angered by the commercial prominence and sometimes abrasive cultural differences of the immigrants.
“. . . When immigrant merchants step into this combustible socio-economic mix, they often become scapegoats,” Muwakkil said. “But they sometimes exacerbate the situation with either their racist assumptions — endemic to their culture or quickly assimilated from American society — or through simple cultural misunderstandings.”
Attorneys who sued Sunoco as well as the gas station owner for Kalvin Porter’s death broadened the perspective on his killing, noting that corporations such as Sunoco are predominantly responsible for the devastation of communities of color.
The Detroit Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability analyzed Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s version of the July 10 police murder of Hakim Littleton, 20, as below.
Hakim Littleton — Family photo
It clearly shows that a Detroit Police “SWAT” team executed the young man with a point-blank shot to the back of his head as he lay on the ground, already wounded and restrained by an officer sitting on top of him. Detroit Will Breathe has called for the release of the names of the cops involved and all other evidence pertinent to Hakim’s brutal death.
To date, however, neither Craig nor Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who had the case on her desk for investigation, has released the requested information. Littleton’s family, friends, neighborhoods, and all Detroiters subject to the actions of the Detroit police have a constitutional right to this information.
In the two weeks following Hakim’s death, two more men were shot to death by Detroit police. Craig has not released the names of the men killed or the officers involved.
WHO ARE THE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THE DEATHS OF HAKIM AND THE OTHER TWO MEN? DO THEY HAVE A RECORD OF SIMILAR ACTIONS? ARE THEY A CONTINUING DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY?
Donations for the Voice of Detroit are urgently needed to keep this paper, which is published pro bono, going. Ongoing expenses are steep and the editor and writers are on limited incomes or incarcerated. Please if you can:
Another prisoner needing release: Rudi Gammo, owner of marijuana dispensary
Cannabis expungement package still awaits Gov. Whitmer’s signature
325,000 in Michigan still in prison or released with marijuana charges on records, despite state legalization in 2018
By Ricardo Ferrell
VOD Field Editor October 1, 2020
FROM VOICE OF DETROIT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RICARDO!! OCTOBER 12, 2020
Mary Bailey manages the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), which is campaigning for the release of Michigan’s Michael Thompson, 69, serving a 42-60 year term that is marijuana-related, although voters in the state of Michigan legalized recreational marijuana possession and use in 2018.
Thompson recently tested positive for the coronavirus, along with more than 900 other prisoners at the Correctional Facility, over half the population there.
During the years-long campaign to release him, his supporters repeatedly raised the issue of his age and medical conditions that put him in heightened danger of COVID-19 infection.
The LPP pushes for expungements of marijuana criminal records, and the release of those in jails & prisons, especially in states where marijuana has been legalized.
“In America there is supposed to be a fair system of justice, where the punishment should be equal to the crime,” Mary Bailey says.
Mary Bailey, Manager Last Prisoner Project
“In Thompson’s case, he was given what people in Michigan call a virtual life sentence. We have got to reform our criminal justice system to be more reflective of places like Switzerland and other European countries, where the punishment for the commission of crimes doesn’t exceed its intended penological purpose. In other words, we shouldn’t be giving offenders like Michael Thompson 40-60 years for cannabis, and locking them up for what amounts to the rest of their lives, then throwing away the key.”
Thompson, 69, was found guilty of selling three pounds of marijuana to an undercover police informant in 1996. The case has gotten the attention of lawyers, advocates, supporters and the general public, all saying his sentence is too harsh and the 25 years Thompson has already served, is enough, garnering substantial media coverage.
In 2018, voters in the State of Michigan went to the polls and cast their votes on Proposal 1. Its passage gave recreational marijuana possession and usage a pathway toward legalization. This seemed to be an instant victory for those with marijuana convictions because lawmakers and candidates for public office vowed to put in place a mechanism to begin expunging criminal records for marijuana convictions.
Those promises have mostly been empty, as there still remain people like Michael Thompson and Rudi Gammo sitting in prison for something that has basically been legalized in Michigan.
Thompson has also garnered the support of Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, who has joined his lawyer Kimberly Corral to push for his release. Current laws in Michigan, like the 1998 Truth-In-Sentencing Statute, preclude Thompson from having his sentence reduced, The law requires him to serve 100% of the 42-60 year term, which means he isn’t eligible for parole until 2038, when he turns 87 years-old.
Michigan AG Dana Nessel
The only other option for Thompson to be released is through the commutation process, which starts with the Michigan Parole Board, then requires at least one of ten members to recommend the process t0 the Governor.
As of this article, it has been reported that the process has begun in Thompson’s case. As reported by Christina Maxouris, of CNN, Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote in a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer dated Aug. 5, 2020, in part…”The sentence imposed on Mr. Thompson is the product of a different time in Michigan legal history. . . And it is a time that has passed.”
The late Mich. Senator Isaac Robinson (seated) with Rep. Jewell Jones (l)
Michigan Lawmakers Jewell Jones, (D) Inkster, and the late Isaac Robinson, (D) Detroit both introduced legislation for the expungement of marijuana convictions. House Bill 5120 tackled the need for expungement of marijuana convictions. Rep. Jones saw how senseless it was to keep those sort of convictions on someone’s criminal record, which if left unchallenged could likely effect them seeking employment opportunities, fair housing, and moving forward in their lives.
According to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s spokeswoman…”Governor Whitmer is open to discussing this issue with her legislative partners to ensure that residents do not bear a lifelong record for conduct that would now be legal at the state level…,” Whitmer’s Spokeswoman Tiffany Brown tells Metro Times.
UPDATE: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the following six-bill Clean Slate package below October 12, 2020.That legislation, part of a six-bill package covering criminal justice reform, has been approved at both the House and Senate levels, and is now on the Governor’s desk. The Senate Advisory Committee summarized the provisions of the bills as follows:
Expand the number of people who qualify for expungement: Under the plan, a person with up to three felonies and any number of misdemeanors could have all their convictions set aside if none were assaultive crimes. Someone with an assaultive crime can have up to two felonies and four misdemeanors set aside. Convictions such as murder and criminal sexual conduct would not be eligible.
Mich. State Senator Jeff Irwin
Automatic expungement for some offenders 10 years after their monitoring by the justice system ends: This would be if none of the convictions are assaultive crimes or serious misdemeanors, and only for convictions that were punishable by less than 10 years imprisonment. It would apply after the person has paid restitution.
Allow expungement of marijuana convictions for behavior that would be permissible under current law: Most of these individuals would be eligible to apply for expungement immediately. This process would not be automatic. A different bill introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, would automatically clear misdemeanors involving low-level marijuana use and possession.
Allow forgiveness for multiple acts committed during “one bad night”: Convictions for offenses similar in nature that were committed in a 24-hour period would be treated as a single felony if none were assaultive, if none involved the possession of a weapon, and if none carried a maximum penalty of more than 10 years.
Allow for the expungement of some traffic offenses: Driving under the influence and traffic offenses causing serious injury or death would not qualify for expungement.
Shorten the eligibility period for misdemeanors: Applications to set aside more than one felony could be filed after seven years. A serious misdemeanor or one felony could be expunged after five years. Other misdemeanors with no felonies could be expunged after three years.
INTERVIEW WITH LPP’S MARY BAILEY
Michael Thompson in earlier photo with grandchildren.
VOD asked Ms. Bailey to describe how she feels about Michael Thompson being held unnecessarily for a crime that has now been legalized in the state where he’s confined.
“Until we can begin to see Michael and countless others worthy of another chance at life, and not condemn them for making mistakes, because we all have made mistakes and errors, but see them as redeemable human beings who can contribute something worthwhile to society, then we will continue to hold them in prison 40-60 years for something as simple as marijuana,” says Bailey.
Q: What inspired you to help start LPP?
A: As a member of the legal cannabis industry, I felt a moral imperative to help those who have been impacted by the criminalization of cannabis. People who are incarcerated for cannabis are the pioneers of this booming industry and they deserve freedom.
Q: Tell me about the Last Prisoner Project: 1) its creation; 2) mission and goals; and 3) where do you see it going in the near future?
A: I host a cannabis conference in Hawaii called Maui Cannabis Conference. After my last conference in 2019, I felt an emotional pull to advocate for prisoners who are incarcerated for cannabis, so I reached out to my mentor, Andrew DeAngelo. He informed me that he and his brother, Steven DeAngelo, have wanted to create an advocacy organization to release prisoners for many years, so we started working together to form Last Prisoner Project and the rest is history.
Last Prisoner Project is dedicated to releasing cannabis prisoners and helping to rebuild their lives. We also know that most everyday Americans don’t realize that there are over 40,000 people incarcerated for cannabis today. Our goal is to educate the public about this important cause, so that they can use their voices for change.
Q: When did you first get involved with the Thompson case?
A: Our organization first started working with Michael Thompson last year. Our team was involved in working with with his attorney, Kim Corral, to file his clemency petition in January 2020. Once we realized that there was not any movement from the MI Parole Board, we decided to create an advocacy & awareness campaign highlighting Michael’s situation.
Q: Recreational marijuana has been legalized in Michigan, should those sort of convictions be expunged?
A: Since adult use cannabis legalization has taken place in Michigan, I feel that all those who are incarcerated for cannabis should be released and their records be expunged. Nobody should still be feeling the effects of the criminalization of cannabis now that it has been deemed an essential business during a global crisis.
Richard Delisi, 71, serving 90-yr sentence in Florida on cannabis conviction
Q: What other cannabis related cases have you been involved in?
A: Our organization works with many different cannabis cases all over the country. One of the most egregious cases I’m currently working on involves a man named Richard Delisi. Richard has been incarcerated for cannabis for 32 years in the State of Florida. He is the longest serving nonviolent prisoner for cannabis in America. American taxpayers have spent $1.6M on his incarceration.
Q: How do you juggle your advocacy and being a mother to your beautiful daughter?
A: I realize that nobody can fill from an empty cup, so I do my best to ensure that I focus on self care for myself to include a daily exercise and a healthy diet, as well as quality time with my family in the evenings and weekends, so that I have the energy to do my advocacy work. My daughter and I love to ride bicycles, read books and go on trips together.
Q: What organizations has LPP collaborated with in its push to get those with marijuana convictions freed?
A: We have worked with many organizations including Life for Pot, Can-do Clemency, the Weldon Project, the Innocent Project, MI Cannabis Caucus, Redemption, NORML, among others.
Q: Should the U.S. look at Switzerland and other European countries as a model for rehabilitation in its prisons and criminal justice systems?
Prison cell in Norway, a leader in prison reform
A: The U.S. should look at German & Dutch prison systems because they are focused on the ultimate goal of rehabilitating inmates, rather than enacting highly punitive policies and laws, which turn away from rehabilitation and reintegration. Germany’s Prison Act even states the sole aim of incarceration is to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.
In the quarter of a century Thompson has been incarcerated, he’s exemplified what a model prisoner looks like. Having only incurred one misconduct (ticket) in the same time frame, is beyond exceptional. Michael Thompson is long overdue to be set free, he has proven to; prison staff, the parole board, the attorney general, the governor, the public, the many supporters, and most of all, to himself, that he is ready for reintegration back into our society.
Final note: This writer applauds the advocacy and hard work of LPP’s founder Steve DeAngelo, his brother Andrew DeAngelo, Sarah Gersten, Executive Director, and of course, Mary Bailey and staff for their efforts in helping individuals like Michael Thompson, Richard Delisi, Rudi Gammo and thousands more who sit needlessly in prisons around the country. In a recent article, Steve DeAngelo said he will not stop until the last cannabis prisoner is free.
UPDATE on case of David Shelton, covered in VOD article by Ricardo Ferrell:
David Shelton (center) with son David Stinson (l) and daughter Mariah Stinson in MDOC visit photo.
JPay from David Stinson, son of David Shelton Sept. 17 to Ricardo Ferrell
Mr. Ferrell, I hope all is well with you and the rest of the VOD staff and I still read all you guys’ stories every time one drops… My father really talks and thanks you guys all the time he really appreciates the story y’all did for him because it really was detailed and put everything on the floor, he really feels y’all will be a reason why he’s released and I do as well…The CIU and Innocence Project picked up my father’s case and he credits VOD’s article about his case as part of the reason their working on his case, and he thanks you and your editor.” Sept. 17th.
Field editor Ricardo Ferrell has written at least 30 stories for the Voice of Detroit over the previous years. His stories can be accessed by putting “Ricardo Ferrell” in the newspaper’s search engine, top right of page.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Voice of Detroit. It has been a struggle financially to keep the paper going, but we feel it is vital for those WITHOUT a voice. We do not charge for access to our articles, as do the News and Free Press, but appreciate whatever readers can donate. Our ongoing include quarterly HostPapa web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc. The editor and reporters are not paid for their work, and many live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated. Please if you can:
DETROIT–A free man after 26 years, Lacino Hamilton, now 45, walked out of Macomb Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan Sept. 30 into the arms of cheering supporters, including legal professionals and former prisoners. He had just been exonerated of second-degree murder charges in the death his beloved foster mother Willa Bias in Detroit in 1994, for which he was serving a virtual life term of 52 to 80 years.
Attys. Mary Chartier and Takura Nyamfukudz take a selfie with Lacino Hamilton. They fought his case pro bono for six years.
“I’m super-excited, looking forward to the rest of my life,” he declared, as a host of television and print reporters gathered around him. His appeals attorneys Mary Chartier and Takura Nyamfukudza had just driven him into a golf course parking lot next to prison grounds.
“I want to get as far away from this prison as possible and I want to see my mother and father,” Hamilton said. “I haven’t seen them since I’ve been incarcerated.”
The first to embrace him as he exited his attorney’s car was Ramon Ward, exonerated in February after serving 27 years in prison on false double murder charges.
Both were victims of the Detroit Police Department’s infamous “Ring of Snitches,” as Aaron Miguel Cantu of TruthOut magazine characterized it in a groundbreaking article five years ago.
It was that article, which featured Hamilton in the lead, that first broadly exposed what had happened in Hamilton’s and hundreds of other cases on the infamous Ninth Floor of the old DPD headquarters at 1300 Beaubien. Detectives plied chosen prisoners with reduced charges, alcohol, sex, and other privileges in exchange for testifying falsely at the trials of targeted prisoners that they heard them confess to the crimes for which they were charged.
Lacino Hamilton (center) with paralegal Travis Herndon (l) and exoneree Ramon Ward (r).
“The police manufactured witnesses,” Hamilton said later. “This was not a mistake. What happened to me and Ramon happened to dozens of others. For my family and friends it’s great, but there are many other innocent people in there. I know them.”
He credited his faith in God and his firm belief that the truth would come out for his ability to withstand his wrongful incarceration.
He thanked attorneys Chartier and Nyamfukudza, and Claudia Whitman of the Death Row Assistance Project. He said they and their staffs had taken his case pro bono and fought it for the last six years on evidence of false testimony from jailhouse snitch Olivera Rico Cowen and others.
The Western Michigan University/Cooley Law School Innocence Project and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) took it up, finding newly-discovered DNA evidence which they said was key to Hamilton’s exoneration. It involved DNA testing of tissue taken from under the victim’s fingernails in 1994, which had not been previously tested. It ruled Hamilton out as the killer.
Hamilton also thanked the many other prisoners including paralegal Travis Herndon, who had helped him during the long years inside the walls. He said his release resulted from a community effort by many people during those years.
Herndon is the legal adviser for Voice of Detroit. He works with Prisoners Doing the Right Thing, founded by the late Timothy Kincaid, a Michigan juvenile lifer released in 2016, who was much respected by other incarcerated individuals.
Prisoners Doing the Right Thing launching “Feeding the Community” project at their offices at 15535 Mack Ave. in Detroit, MI
“I met Lacino years ago, when he first came into the system in the 1990’s,” Herndon said. “He would always question me about the law, but ‘Cino had more of an analytical mind. He didn’t just accept things told to him. He wanted to go deeper, into the origin of things.
“I was taken by him, because he was so young. It was something that always bugged him about how people in general are treated. We’d be walking the yard talking about legal issues. If he saw something like a fight taking place on the yard, and he felt he should intervene to stop it, he did it by communicating with the individuals. The next day I’d see Cino sitting on the bench in the yard talking to one of the guys that he hadn’t even known.
“Here’s a guy, 24 or 25, who would talk to me about social issues, matters in other countries. He would be researching on the legal front because he wanted his freedom. But he put the same amount of energy into social issues. He was so young to have this type of knowledge, and he was very articulate when he spoke. He explained everything so clearly.”
During his time in prison, Hamilton wrote numerous profound analytical articles for TruthOut and other publications, including one describing his treatment in solitary confinement, which has been condemned as torture by organizations globally, “I am Buried Alive in a Michigan Prison.”
“I am buried alive inside Michigan’s Marquette Maximum Security Prison. I am locked in a windowless cell measuring 10×8 feet, 24 hours per day. For one hour every other day, I am handcuffed, chained around the waist and allowed exercise and a shower in a small cage. I am not allowed to interact with others, or to participate in any educational, vocational, or employment programs. All meals are delivered to the cell. I have no access to a phone. And while I am permitted two, one hour non-contact visits per month — always conducted through glass — Marquette is 455 miles away from my hometown of Detroit. Opportunities to visit family and friends are rare. For all intents and purposes, I am dead to everything but melancholic anxieties and horrible despair. This is torture.”
In another essay quoted in the TruthOut article, Hamilton said, “How some of us live is not a mistake; neither is it the product of a broken system. We live like that because it is profitable to a lot of people businesses: pawn shops, pay-day loan services, slum lords, creditors, social services, and others who traffic in misery.”
Lacino Hamilton (center in blue shirt) celebrates with his attorneys and staffers who worked on his case.
“We made the decision long ago to never give up fighting for Mr. Hamilton’s release,” Atty. Chartier said in a release. “While we are beyond thrilled that all charges have been dismissed, he lost 26 years of his life waiting for this day. . . Many of the thousands of men and women who are wrongfully imprisoned have been convicted based on ‘snitch’ testimony.
“In Mr. Hamilton’s case, the ‘snitch’ claimed in numerous cases that men—men who were strangers—had spontaneously confessed murder to him. Police knew this yet continued to claim that he was reliable and use him as a witness. . . If we truly want to stop innocent men and women from being convicted and imprisoned, then we have to reform our criminal prosecution system now. There are ways to do it. Michigan just needs to act.”
Atty. Nyamfukudz said, I’m sad to say that this is actually not unique—there are many many people who are doing time behind bars right now based on the testimony of people who for whatever reason have given a story, and either because police or sometimes prosecutors [chose] to turn a blind eye or just not to do the right thing, there are people doing time behind bars.”
Hamilton said that he will work to find ways n which a “competitive criminal justice system” can address cases such as his. “It’s not all about winning and losing,” he said. Under federal and state laws, prosecutors are tasked with finding the truth about a defendant’s guilt or innocence, not with winning every case.
In “Ring of Snitches,” TruthOut reported that “Hamilton was imprisoned with a man named Darnell Thompson, who claims he was threatened by police into pinning the crime on Hamilton. In an affidavit reviewed by Truthout, Thompson said that homicide detectives and prisoner Olivera Rico Cowen conspired to pressure him into testifying against Hamilton. Thompson, who was 18 at the time, says he was coerced into signing a statement against Hamilton, but he later refused to testify against Hamilton in court. But Thompson’s statement, as well as Cowen’s testimony and testimony about Hamilton’s character by a neighbor, were enough for a jury to convict Hamilton to a maximum of 80 years in prison.
“Chartier says Cowen’s testimony was a critical reason for the conviction, even though he was also instrumental in six other murder convictions, according to court documents.”
RAMON WARD, EXONERATED FEB. 2020, ALSO ‘SNITCH’ VICTIM
Ramon Ward embraces Lacino Hamilton Sept. 30, 2020
Ramon Ward held Hamilton in an emotional bear hug as he left his attorney’s car, both recalling the years of wrongful incarceration they had experienced.
“We walked through the storm together,” Ward said. “I’m proud to be here to experience the joy again.” Ward said since his release, he has founded “Justice Denied,” an LLC meant to assist returning citizens.
Ward was there with Justice Denied’s co-founder, his fiancee Roeiah Epps, a UD-Mercy Law School graduate awaiting her bar exam results.
He said Justice Denied assists returning citizens, prisoners fighting wrongful convictions, and the wrongfully accused. It focuses particularly on exonerees, who do not receive immediate compensation for the years they spent behind bars, but must wait six months for Michigan’s state fund to pay them. (It has been reported recently that the fund is temporarily depleted.} Any other compensation requires a lawsuit to be filed after an attorney is located.
Ward was exonerated last February after spending 27 years in prison for the 1994 shooting deaths of deaths of two women in Detroit. Cowen, the snitch in Hamilton’s case, and Joe Twilley, who testified in dozens of other cases, perjured themselves by claiming falsely that Ward confessed to them while they were housed together on DPD’s Ninth Floor.
PROSECUTOR DISMISSES MARVIN COTTON, ANTHONY LEGION CASES
Marvin Cotton MDOC photo
Anthony Legion MDOC photo
The day after Hamilton’s release, on Oct. 1, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that her office had dismissed the cases of co-defendants Marvin Cotton and Anthony Legion, sentenced to life without parole for the 2001 murder of Jamon McIntyre in Detroit.
A third defendant, “positively” identified by the same witness who identified Cotton and Legion, was not tried after Detroit Police confirmed his alibi.
“This is not a case of actual innocence,” Worthy’s communications director Maria Miller said. “This is a case where release was granted because of the Brady violation and the lies told by the jail house snitch.”
Cotton was released Oct. 1 after a judge granted his motion for relief from judgment and Worthy decided not to re-try him. Legion’s conviction in this case was vacated, but he remains in prison until Feb. 2021 related to another case.
“These cases all centered on the issue of identification,” Worthy said in a release. “The witness in Mr. Legion and Mr. Cotton’s cases who testified at trial was the same male identifying witness in the third defendant’s case, along with a male jail house informant.”
Marvin Cotton’s mother Sherena Fortune with paralegal Roberto Guzman at 2015 event.
The release says DPD’s chief investigative officer (CIO) in the case did not provide key evidence to the prosecution, in violation of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
Brady requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense. The ruling holds the prosecution responsible for Brady violations by police.
The CIO is not identified in the release, but Worthy’s office has said that she will be releasing an updated Brady list of police and other law enforcement officers charged with crimes of dishonesty and other matters next week. No charges are pending against police and other officials who engineered the frame-up.
Metro Times Cover story on Marvin Cotton
In 2016, Ryan Felton wrote an article for the Metro Times, “Is Marvin Cotton Innocent,” as well as other articles examining likely wrongful convictions. He identified Ellis Frazier as the jailhouse informant recruited by police to testify against Cotton.
“More than a dozen years later, he has since pulled back his entire testimony, saying it was ‘completely fabricated and untrue.’ Felton wrote, noting that Frazier had provided an affidavit to Cotton affirming his statements. Felton quoted the following from the affidavit:
“I have never even met or talked to Marvin Cotton, and he did not confess to me about being a part of any crime like I testified to at the trial. All of the information and details in the police statement was pre-written and wholly composed by the homicide detective.”
Felton identified the DPD officers involved as Donald Hughes, Ernest Wilson, and Walter Bates.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The video above is publicly available on YouTube. Below is a PDF of the complete New York Times breaking story on Trump’s taxes, for those who cannot access the article directly. Hopefully this will mean the end of the Donald Trump “presidency.”
Above, Darrell Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson at rally for her son and others wrongfully convicted, outside Detroit’s Frank Murphy Hall July 2, 2020.
Derrico Searcy (l) and Darrell Ewing (r)
Ewing serving LWOP at Lakeland Correctional Facility, where 821 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, second highest number in MDOC
Ewing: “My case is a clear and convincing case of innocence.”
Federal and state judges ordered new trials 3 times since 2017 for Ewing and co-defendant Derrico Searcy
By Diane Bukowski
September 28, 2020
DETROIT — “I’m waging war and giving them all that I got,” Darrell Ewing says. “My case is a clear and convincing case of innocence.”
As the coronavirus ravages Michigan’s prisons and experts predict that a second wave is imminent, Ewing, 31, is battling for his freedom, hoping his fate will not become a death sentence.
He is serving life without parole at Lakeland Correctional Facility, where 812 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19, the second highest number in the state’s prisons.
Three times since 2017, Federal and state court judges have ordered a new trial for Ewing and his co-defendant Derrico Searcy, finding that their constitutional right to a fair trial was violated a decade ago by juror misconduct.
Another man, Tyree Washington, has repeatedly confessed under oath to the crime for which the pair were convicted, the murder of J.B. Watson in Detroit in 2009. He did not testify at the original trial, but is expected to do so at a re-trial.
Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson says he should have been released pending a new trial after U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood first ordered it in 2017, because of the imminent danger to his life at Lakeland and the court’s recognition that he had not received a fair trial.
But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appealed Judge Page Hood’s order to the Sixth Circuit Court, which granted an evidentiary hearing instead. On remand, Judge Page Hood ordered an evidentiary hearing by the trial court:
“The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is again granted on petitioner’s second claim involving the use of extraneous influence. The grant is conditioned upon the state trial court conducting an evidentiary hearing on petitioner’s juror misconduct claim within 120 days of this Court’s order and making a determination as to whether the extraneous information had a prejudicial effect upon the jury’s verdict. If the judge so finds, he or she shall order a new trial for petitioner. Ewing v. Horton, 914 F.3d at 1031-34.”
Mich. 3rd Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway
The Honorable Denise Page Hood, U.S. District Court Judge
Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway held the hearing, and ordered a new trial for the two defendants Oct. 24, 2019, based on the dramatic testimony of juror Kathleen Byrnes.
“It is irrefutable that she had some doubts that were reasonable, based on the ID evidence and the confession of Mr. Washington, and that she was worn down by other jurors bringing extraneous information into the jury process,” Hathaway concluded. “Even the last witness admitted she went on Facebook. I have an order from Judge Denise Page Hood that I have to follow.”
AP Jon Wojtala is on Ewing/Searcy case.
WC Pros. Kym Worthy Campaign photo
But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy delayed action by appealing to the state courts, which had already denied relief, rather than returning to Judge Page Hood’s court.
In a separate federal court filing Sept. 2, Ewing implored Judge Page Hood, “This Court held Petitioner receive a new trial, and not for the case to be appealed to an inferior court, steady wasting. . .already strained judicial resources.”
He called for an end to the judicial “merry-go-round” despite his innocence and “risk of passing due to COVID-19 as it steady rears its head at Petitioner’s facility, with 3 new cases today and already being fatal for over 69 [now 72] inmates in the DOC.”
Brentia Hutson, Darrell Ewing’s fiancee.
Ewing’s mother and fiancee Brentia Hutson have spoken with the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office about exoneration proceedings for him, but were told that it would be best for him to await the state court hearings.
Ewing, however, says all Prosecutor Worthy has to do to safeguard his life and that of his co-defendant is “move to stipulate and drop her appeal under MCR. 7.123 (F) as my case is a clear and convincing case of innocence.” That statute says, “The parties may stipulate regarding any issue on appeal or any part of the record on appeal if the stipulation is embodied in an order entered by the court.”
The CIU has facilitated its recent exonerations by having the prosecutor and defense stipulate on the court record to the reasons for the exoneration.
Darrell Ewing’s family and supporters at court. Mother LaSonya Dodson (3rd from left).
In its brief opposing Ewing’s motion for emergency habeas relief, currently under review in Judge Page Hood’s court, the State Attorney General’s office said in part, “Ewing appears to believe that the “spirit” of this Court’s grant of habeas relief was violated when the prosecutor filed an appeal from the trial court’s order granting him a new trial. Nonsense. This Court’s grant of relief mandated that a Remmer [evidentiary] hearing be held. . . .the denial of a Remmer hearing following a judicial misconduct claim supported by prima facie evidence—was remedied the moment the hearing was held.”
Ewing replied Sept. 3 that the AG left out the last sentence of Judge Page Hood’s order relating to the trial judge’s “determination whether the extraneous information had a prejudicial effect upon the jury’s verdict. If the judge so finds , he or she shall order a new trial for petitioner. Ewing v. Horton, 914 F.3d at 1031-34.”
“. . . . Wayne County Third Circuit Judge Michael Hathaway found prejudice and granted Petitioner a new trial, adhering to this Court’s decree,” Ewing said. “The Respondent [AG] however in an attempt to circumvent and undermine this Court’s authority filed an application for leave to appeal not on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Michigan Court of Appeals instead.”
He went on to ask Judge Page Hood to apply the doctrine of “Judicial Estoppel:”
A hearing in Judge Page Hood’s court on the matters above has not yet been set.
Nationally-known journalist/producer Maggie Freleng to air Ewing’s case
Meanwhile, Ewing says his hopes are buoyed by nationally-acclaimed journalist/producer Maggie Freleng’s plans to feature his case on a podcast called “Unjust and Unsolved” on the Obsessed Network.
The podcast has already featured the stories of five wrongfully convicted people during its premiere this month.
“Unjust and Unsolved tells the stories of individuals across the nation who may be wrongfully incarcerated for crimes that remain unsolved,” writes Peter White of Deadline.
“Podcast host Maggie Freleng will take listeners inside the prison walls for first-person accounts and present evidence pointing away from their guilt. Episodes will also include interviews with loved ones, lawyers and other case experts to shed light on how these individuals wound up incarcerated for decades despite their innocence. It will launch in September.”
“Truth always prevails at the end . . .It takes cases such as mine to come about shaking the foundation of the wickedness, exposing it at the same time for all to see so that perfection can be ushered in.” — Darrell Ewing
Derrico Searcy (l) and Darrell Ewing Ir) hear Judge Michael Hathaway grant new trial Oct. 24, 2019.
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood’s order for a new trial:
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Voice of Detroit. It has been a struggle financially to keep the paper going, but we feel it is vital for those WITHOUT a voice. We do not charge for access to our articles, but appreciate whatever readers can donate. Our ongoing expenses include quarterly HostPapa web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc. The editor and reporters are not paid for their work, and many live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated. Please if you can:
VOD Field Editor Ricardo Ferrell, a trained “Prisoner Observation Aide,” decries mental health “treatment” afforded to MDOC residents
Drug regimen is the only focus, with no true therapy, counseling
25% of those confined in the MDOC diagnosed with severe mental illness
By Ricardo Ferrell
VOD Field Editor
September 23, 2020
Note: Ricardo Ferrell was trained to be a “Prisoner Observation Aide” and has had 8 years of experience in assisting prisoners thought to be in danger of committing suicide, and dealing with their mental health issues.
September has been designated as National Suicide Prevention Month. But the issue of mental illness in many ways is glossed over by high paid Qualified Mental Health Professionals (QMHP’s) who for the most part don’t seem to be too concerned about the mental health of prisoners. I have personally witnessed over a thousand severely mentally ill individuals suffer from acute disorders. During many of the episodes, I have to make decisions in breakneck speed as the situations are dire and could mean life or death for the individual.
In 2012, former MDOC director Daniel Heyns adopted a program from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, which tasks prisoners with watching suicidal inmates. He introduced the Prisoner Observation Aide Program, which consists of carefully selected prisoners receiving specialized training to become aides in visually observing those experiencing episodes of suicidal and self-injurious behavior, in an effort to prevent them from engaging in harmful behaviors.
“I was on the brink of losing my sanity. I had unknowingly been suffering for years from a Bipolar 1 Disorder, and it caused me all sorts of unwanted problems,” a 36-year-old man housed in a Residential Treatment Programs told me. He is serving 15 years for Armed Robbery and Possessing a Firearm.
Kevin DeMott is a mentally ill inmate with bipolar and personality disorders. Corrections officers at the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility chained DeMott to his bed and secured a padded helmet to his head after he refused to stop banging his head against the wall, which is stained with blood.
He said he had episodes of extreme hyperactivity, a disrupted circadian rhythm (affecting sleep), flights of ideas, and impulsive moods that finally led to that diagnosis.
He said that after he received an accurate diagnosis in 2010, punitive measures were employed in response to his mental health symptoms, including numerous incidents of wrongful isolation, Additionally, inadequate medications such as Klonopin, Risperdal, and Lithium were prescribed.
During the administrations of Michigan Govs. John Engler and James Blanchard, the majority of mental institutions/hospitals were shutdown, sending many patients to live on the streets. Jails & prisons became immediate dumping grounds.
Today, there are roughly 10,000 inmates who have been diagnosed as severely mentally ill, which is just under 25% of the total Michigan Department of Corrections population. The MDOC has established Mental Health Services, which provide s prison-based services to prisoners with serious mental illness/severe disorders. But they still fall far short of meeting the needs of this group of individuals.
Mental health treatment for prisoners in Norway means unarmed guards, art and music therapy.
Mostly, you will see many of these people on any given day heavily prescribed various psychotropic medications, i.e., Haldol, Prolixine, Tegretol and other mind controlling drugs. Extensive counseling and psycho-therapeutical aspects of treatment which are needed are missing, and the treatment received lacks any real substance and value.
I have been on the frontline for the past eight years, observing individuals deal with their mental illnesses and rendering my skills and services trying to curtail and/or prevent them from engaging in suicidal and self-injurious behavior.
My role lets me know of my worth in helping others. It gives me a sense of purpose, thus adding meaning to my life. What better way to make amends for my wrongs, especially where someone lost their life, then to be in a position to help save someone else’s life?
I was particularly touched when I learned of the suicide of Janika Edmund at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility near Ypsilanti. I was more disturbed due to the circumstances surrounding her untimely death. The investigation revealed that Edmund hung herself in a cell.
Shockingly, two employees, a corrections officer and a prison counselor in her housing unit, placed a bet, one saying she would commit suicide, the other saying she wouldn’t, But get this, you will never guess what the wager was. These uncaring individuals actually bet each other lunch, which goes to show what they think of the lives of people incarcerated.
There’s virtually no real accountability for the egregious actions of employees within the Michigan Department of Corrections. Their salaries are enormously inflated, as if their work peeformance actually merits the $25-$40 an hour jobs.
In Mental Health & Criminal Defense, Alex Bassos, JD, analyzes every aspect of a criminal case involving clients with mental health or cognitive issues and challenges attorneys to “push back against the state’s attempts to punish a person for having a mental illness.
Mental health services by psychologists, social workers and therapists in this system are a joke. They worsen the conditions of severely mentally ill inmates in the new mental institutions known as the MDOC.
With 95% of all Michigan prisoners eventually going to be released, one would think that those who suffer from mental illness would be properly assessed and treated by a Qualified Mental Health Professional. But the main objective seems to be simply putting this special needs group on psych meds and sending them on their merry way. In many instances where those individuals experience episodes of harmful behaviors to themselves, the approach by staff is punitive, rather than treating and helping to heal the individual.
Many prisoners who are housed in the Residential Treatment Program, are treated badly by prison guards with physical, verbal and emotional abuse. Where do we go from here? The reality is that those who suffer from severe mental illness do not belong in a prison setting, they should be in a mental institution where they can receive the professional help they need.
The story above has been re-published as the cover story in this week’s Metro Times. VOD editor Diane Bukowski’s comment (above) was shared on Facebook and on Messenger, but those who do not participate in those platforms can see it here.
See VOD’s most recent article on the police murder of Hakim Littleton, with links to earlier articles at:
LARKSPUR, CA – MAY 9: A demonstrator waits in her car before a rolling protest caravan departs for the west gate of San Quentin State Prison to demand more protection for prisoners against the coronavirus and COVID-19 in Larkspur, Calif. on Saturday, May 9, 2020. (Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
DETROIT — “We’re really concerned about the quiet within the [prisons] because that is a signal that there’s potential trouble on the rise.”–Troy Rienstra, Nation Outside, Lansing, Michigan April 16, 2020
This month, Wayne Co. Deputy Sheriff Bryant Searcy was killed by a prisoner in the Wayne County Jail Sept. 2, only the second such death in the jail’s history.
Two weeks later, up to 100 prisoners at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula seized control of their unit Sept. 13 for several hours after a fight during which a guard tasered one of them, causing him to lose consciousness. State Department of Corrections officials called in U.S. Customs and the Michigan State Police to quell the uprising.
Leopold Allen Jr.: I feel like I’m just waiting to die.
Earlier on the same day as the Chippewa uprising, a guard at the Marquette Branch Prison, also in the Upper Peninsula, was reportedly treated for a head wound and a concussion after trying to break up a spreading fight there.
“I feel as though I’m waiting to die,” Leopold Allen, Jr., a prisoner at Muskegon Correctional Facility who tested positive for COVID-19, said as families of prisoners there rallied outside in August month.
His girlfriend Tangela Dooley of Detroit said that he and 30 other prisoners who tested positive were put in a garage with bunk beds there to isolate them.
As of April 14, however, there were no positive COVID-19 cases at Muskegon, according to an article by Michigan ACLU reporter Curt Guyette.
Jamie Meade MDOC
But soap was being rationed: only two small hotel-sized bars were allotted each week to prisoners, which was to be used for everything from showering to washing dishes and to cleaning clothes. If they wanted more, they would have to buy it at the prison commissary if they had funds.
Guyette interviewed several men locked up there at the time, who contradicted the official MDOC statement that soap was provided for free anytime it was asked for. Additionally, Guyette reported, bleach was only being used sporadically for cleaning, although MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz told him that the prison was going to use it regularly.
Jamie Meade, serving a life sentence at Muskegon, made a heart-rending and prophetic plea for help:
Elsewhere in Michigan, prisoners who test positive or are suspected of being sick are being placed in solitary confinement under punitive conditions, Bridge Magazine reported Aug. 24.
Edmund Fields MDOC photo
An investigation by Bridge partner Outlier Media said such individuals are also placed in ‘cohorts’ that allow the virus to spread to the healthy, confirming reports by many MDOC prisoners that mass facility-to-facility transfers of sick individuals are taking place.
“Inmates such as Edmund Fields said they were stripped of their property, denied communication with loved ones and moved into rooms with just a toilet and bunk for 24 hours per day,” Bridge reported.
“Fields spent 14 days starting on April 29 in isolation after his roommate at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer tested positive for COVID-19. He was allowed 30 minutes outside his cell every other day.”
Bridge quoted Fields, “Why are we being treated as if we’re deserving of punishment for contracting or being in close contact to this disease? Even guys in [solitary] are typically afforded an opportunity to go outside and get some air.”
On Aug. 28, the union representing guards at the MDOC called for the removal of MDOC Director Heidi Washington over the administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in the prison. The Michigan Corrections Organization said, “Unfortunately, we are at a point where the current work conditions are unacceptable for our members.”
Washington has been director since 2015, one of only a few officials Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kept from former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.
On Aug. 13, members of the Detroit People’s Task Force protested outside the Detroit Detention Facility regarding the COVID pandemic in the prisons.
DPTF chair Marilyn Jordan, whose son is serving a life term in the MDOC, said her organization and others have not heard from either Gov. Whitmer or Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II regarding concerns for their loved ones inside the walls. She said she has been unable even to call Gilchrist at his own phone number, instead calls to him are routed through Whitmer’s office. (See video below.)
Whitmer appointed Gilchrist as chair of her Task Force on Racial Disparities in the Coronavirus Pandemic, and as co-chair of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.
Jordan called on Whitmer and Gilchrist to “Fix the COVID-19 in the Prisons,” recalling her campaign slogan “Fix the Damn Roads.”
Whitmer’s most recent order addresses important issues including the provision of personal protective equipment and adequate bathing and laundry rules, but does not address de-carceration.
Whitmer rescinded her first order, which said,
“Anyone authorized to act under section 2 of this order is strongly encouraged to consider early release for all of the following, so long as they do not pose a public safety risk: older people, people who have chronic conditions or are otherwise medically frail, people who are pregnant, and people nearing their release date; anyone who is incarcerated for a traffic violation; anyone who is incarcerated for failure to appear or failure to pay; anyone with behavioral health problems who can safely be diverted for treatment.”
De-carceration is a key demand raised by prisoner advocacy groups nationally, who say that it is not possible to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in overcrowded prisons and jails because measures like social distancing are impossible.
A webinar being held in Michigan Sept. 21 (see photo at right) will feature: Jose Hamza Saldaña, Director of Release Aging People in Prison, survived 38 years of imprisonment; Heather Ann Thompson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy; Sharif A. Hamid, survivor of the ’71 Attica Uprising and Massacre; and Roslyn Smith, survived 39 years of imprisonment.
Also see Sentencing Project’s YouTube video of the event, posted Sept. 22 (below this story.)
During a car caravan in Lansing April 15, the Michigan advocacy group Nation Outside raised a list of de-carceration demands, including:
Suspension of Michigan’s Truth in Sentencing Law, which could allow the release of 3,000 to 5,000 prisoners with good behavior. The law requires prisoners to serve their entire minimum sentence before parole consideration.
Grant emergency special commutations.
Waive the two-year requirement between filings for commutation.
Expedite the parole process.
Convene a task force to evaluate other emergency measures.
Protesters in Lansing April 16, 2020 call on Whitmer to release prisoners due to COVID-19.
Nation Outside organizer Troy Rienstra, who served 22 years in the MDOC, told MLive reporter Malachi Barrett at the time, “We’re really concerned about the quiet within the population because that is a signal that there’s potential trouble on the rise.”
But after the caravan, Whitmer said “there was nothing she could do” to release more prisoners, other than instituting paroles in a “timely manner.”
The parole process in Michigan has been notorious ever since former Gov. John Engler eliminated Civil Service employees on the parole board, and replaced them with appointees. The first Engler-appointed parole board director, former Berrien County Sheriff Stephen Marschke, said, “Life means life,” referring to 2nd-degree, or “parolable lifers,” who were eligible for parole after 10 to 15 years.
The U.S. is the only country in the world that practices “death by incarceration,” sending people to prison until they die. Most others allow parole consideration after 10-15 years.
William Garrison in a 2009 photo from family visit.
The parole process for eligible prisoners from Wayne County has been further restricted because Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy will not waive a 28-day waiting period imposed after parole has been granted. She claims her office must contact the victims of the crimes for which prisoners set for parole are serving time, although that is already done at the state level during parole board hearings.
On April 18, William Garrison, a juvenile lifer who was expecting his release within weeks, died from the coronavirus at Macomb Correctional Facility, one of the state’s four prisons with the highest COVID-19 rate of infections. Garrison had spent 44 years in prison since the age of 17 and had a good record. He was scheduled to be paroled as a juvenile lifer earlier, but chose to wait until he had served enough time to max out and be released.
The order to parole him as a result of that choice came in March, but he was still waiting for Worthy’s office to approve it because of the 28-day waiver.
The State of Michigan was the first English-speaking governmental entity in the world to abolish the death penalty, in 1847, as confirmed in the Michigan Constitution of 1963. But thousands of prisoners in Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and county jails fear they may die from COVID-19 behind the walls.
So far, the MDOC reports that 68 confined there have died from the coronavirus. That is the fifth highest number among state prison systems in the U.S.
Michigan has the seventh highest number of cases nationally, with 5,308 positive cases, according to a database maintained by the Marshall Project. That is 1,543 for every 10,000 prisoners in a total population of 41,000, higher than the rate in in California, whose DOC has a population of 117,000. There, the rate is 1109 per 10,000.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) officials told a federal judge in late July that they planned to release a total of 17,600 prisoners because of the COVID-19 threat, up from an earlier estimate of 10,400.
Many objected, including Corrections Secretary Ralph Diaz, who said he would bock the release of about 5,500, some of them serving life prison sentences.
During the Aug. 13 protest by the DPTF at the Detroit Detention Center on Mound Round (formerly MDOC Mound Correctional Facility), DPTF member Darryl Bracey, who had spent time there after his arrest, but was not later charged, described horrendous conditions including sleeping on the floor with dozens of others who had not been screened for COVID-19, and lack of sanitation (see video above).
All individuals arrested in Wayne County are sent to the Detention Center before being charged and arraigned. Bracey reported that individuals are being held there longer than the 48-hour limit set by the U.S. Supreme Court in County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991).
Class action lawsuits on behalf of prisoners in jails including those in Wayne and Oakland Counties, and the MDOC, who are endangered by COVID-19 were filed earlier this year, but are currently stalled in the appeals process while prisoners continue to die. The appellate process is costing taxpayers money that could be used to remedy conditions in such facilities as well as communities.
On April 11, 2020, several men in the old Wayne County Jail sent out an appeal that went viral regarding conditions there. Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said afterwards that he is addressing the conditions prisoners reported.
One Sheriff’s representative said however that the video was being researched to see who sent it, and that it appeared prisoners were using an illegal “burner” cell phone for the video. However, the mother of the son who sent it said that it was recorded on a jail station set up to allow video visits since in-person visits have been banned during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Relatives of some of those shown in the video reported that they had been placed in solitary confinement or sent to other facilities. One said her son is still in the Wayne County Jail awaiting trial far past speedy trial requirements due to COVID-19 restrictions on court hearings. She said he reports that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is being sent to the Dickerson Jail.
Class Action Lawsuits filed on behalf of prisoners at Wayne and Oakland County Jails, and in MDOC facilities, with current status:
WAYNE COUNTY JAIL Last Action: June 5, 2020 ORDER Setting Briefing Schedule on Plaintiff’s Motion to Stay ( Response due by 6/25/2020 , Reply due by 7/3/2020 ). Signed by District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith.
MDOC CLASS ACTION: Last Action: Jun 03 2020 ORDER Granting In Part Emergency Motion for Expedited Discovery and Expedited Evidentiary Hearing (Dkt. 41), and Denying Emergency Motion to Withdraw Stipulation and Order Requiring Response to Motion for Class Certification (Evidentiary Hearing set for 6/17/2020 08:30 AM before District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith–Not been held to date.)
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Hello, this is Diane Bukowski, editor of the Voice of Detroit, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary.