VIDEO ABOVE: AARON NEVILLE SINGS “I SHALL BE RELEASED.”
Prosecution agrees to evidentiary hearing in case of Thelonious Searcy, serving natural life for crime Vincent Smothers says he committed.
Smothers projected to testify at hearing
Not only AP Muscat and DPD Sgt. Collins have history of frame-ups, so does Judge Timothy Kenny in the case of Eddie Joe Lloyd
“It’s a blessing. He said the truth would come out sooner or later.”–Searcy’s grandmother Edna Richardson
By Diane Bukowski
August 14, 2017
Update April 20, 2021: DeAnthony Witcher, referenced in stories on Thelonious Searcy case, stated in a phone call to VOD Editor Diane Bukowski that he is NOT a police informant and denies all allegations made against him in and and all stories on the Thelonious Searcy case.
DETROIT — After an unrelenting 14-year battle to clear himself of murder and attempted murder convictions, Thelonious (Shawn) Searcy, 37, has finally won his day in court.
Admitted hitman Vincent Smothers should be there as well, to testify that he, not Searcy, committed the murder of Jamal Segars and attempted murder of Brian Minner on Conner in Detroit on Sept. 5, 2004.
On Aug. 2, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Assistant Prosecutors Jason Williams and Thomas Chambers agreed to Searcy’s July 22, 2016 demand for an evidentiary hearing in front of Presiding Criminal Court Judge Timothy Kenny, where Smothers is expected to testify. Searcy also asked for the prosecution to address his allegations of misconduct by Judge Kenny, Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Muscat, Chief Investigating Officer Dale Collins, members of the Detroit Crime lab, and his defense counsel, included in his motion for a new trial.
Searcy said during his sentencing before Kenny on May 23, 2005, “I didn’t kill Jamal Segars. I didn’t shoot Jamal Segars . . . If you’re going to send me up, I don’t have no problem with that, but I know justice is going to come out. I know this is going to be brought to the media. I’m talking to the FBI because the Fifth Precinct Sergeant and Investigator Dale Collins, they have been harassing my family. They have been up here talking to people at the Wayne County Jail. A lot of stuff with this case was crooked.”
Searcy’s grandmother Edna Richardson told VOD, “I think it’s a blessing. He said the truth would come out sooner or later. He always kept fighting. He never gave up hope. I believe he is innocent. I hope he comes home soon.”
Mrs. Richardson hired private investigator Scott Lewis, formerly a long-time TV news reporter, to tape an interview with Smothers confirming the confession he earlier provided in an affidavit ((included in VOD’s first story on this case). She also paid for hundreds of pages from his Detroit police homicide file after filing a Freedom of Information Act request, which produced evidence the prosecution had withheld at trial.
Muscat and Collins were both key players in the wrongful conviction of Davontae Sanford in 2008. Judge Kenny was the prosecutor who tried Eddie Joe Lloyd for the rape and murder of 16-year Michelle Jackson in 2984. Lloyd’s case became notorious after his exoneration in 2002. Before becoming a judge, Kenny had 20 years experience as an Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor.
After Lloyd’s exoneration, Barry C. Scheck, then co-director of the Innocence Project and Lloyd’s lawyer, said biological evidence available at the time that could have cleared Lloyd was never pursued.
He called for Kenny and William Rice, the chief officer in charge of the case, to be investigated for misconduct, according to the New York Times. He added that Detective Thomas DeGalan should be criminally prosecuted.
Kenny denied any wrongdoing in an article in the Detroit Free Press Oct. 25, 2002.
The prosecutor’s response to Searcy’s motion, ordered by Kenny on July 28, consists of 36 pages, 33 of which are the prosecutor’s summary of Searcy’s trial transcipts, and three pages addressing Searcy’s motion for a new trial.
The response also includes two appendices, Searcy’s March 7, 2017 letter to Detroit Police Chief James Craig about his innocence, and Judge Brian Sullivan’s order dismissing without prejudice charges against Davontae Sanford. That order blasts the veracity of Smothers’ confession to the four murders on Runyon Street in 2007 which Sanford served time for.
“The People are in agreement with this Court’s order of June 8, 2017, that there be an evidentiary hearing in this case,” the prosecutors’ response says (see full response attached below story.) VOD notes that Kenny did not order an evidentiary hearing, he simply ordered the prosecution to respond to Searcy’s motion. (See Judge Kenny’s order, and text of Thelonious Searcy’s letter to Police Chief James Craig, below as well.)
“Counsel should be appointed for Defendant Searcy, pursuant to MCR 6.505(A), as well as for Vincent Smothers, since Smothers will conceivably be implicating himself in a first-degree murder and an assault with a intent to commit murder,” the response says. Criminal defense attorney Gabi Silver represented Smothers during proceedings on the Sanford case.
The prosecution says they are not taking a definitive position on the case, but make several observations.
“Four people at trial identified Defendant as the shooter, or one of the shooters,” their response reads. “The People are cognizant that in a letter sent to the Chief of Police dated April 7, 2017, Defendant alleges that two of those four identifying witnesses, Latasha Boatwright and Kimberly Jeffries, were paid by DeAnthony Witcher, who the people theorized at trial was the intended victim. . . .The people acknowledge that these two people were friends of DeAnthony Witcher. This does not explain, however, why two other people, Tiffany King and Dwayne Dye, who had no horse in the race, also identified Defendant as the shooter.”
Later in the response, they admit that none of the three police officers called to the scene, two of whom chased a suspect, could identify Searcy. Neither could Brian Minner, the other individual shot in the passenger seat of Segars car.
They also allege that Smothers’ confession to the murder of four people on Runyon Street in the Sanford case was not the cause of Judge Sullivan’s 2015 order to dismiss Sanford’s conviction without prejudice. They say Sullivan’s chief reason was false testimony by Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert, who said Sanford drew a sketch of the crime scene and placed the bodies in the sketch, although it was Tolbert who drew the outline of the rooms in the sketch.
VOD earlier published and dissected Sullivan’s order, demonstrating how it ignored the actual facts in the case. (See order link below under “Related Documents: and VOD story on Sullivan order, below “Related Stories.” It is at http://voiceofdetroit.net/2016/07/21/davontae-sanford-formally-freed-time-for-charges-vs-kym-worthy-cops-in-frame-up/
Both Prosecutor Kym Worthy, in a press conference after Sanford was freed, and Sullivan in his dismissal order cast aspersions on Sanford that left questions about whether he might have been guilty after all. Judge Sullivan strongly challenged the veracity of Smothers’ confession. (Sullivan order linked below story.)
It is not known whether the murder of Sanford’s stepfather Jeremaine Tilmon on Nov. 3, 2016, allegedly by Floyd Darnell Nix, was revenge connected to the dismissal of charges against Sanford.
Tilmon was a mentor to students at Detroit’s East English Village Prep Academy and a Cease Fire activist. He participated with his family in every protest and prayer breakfast on behalf of Davontae for many years, and led a choral group at his church. Nix has a pre-trial scheduled in front of Judge Kelly Ramsey on Aug. 25, 2017, and a jury trial on Oct. 2, 2017.
Meanwhile, VOD has obtained evidence related to Searcy’s case in addition to Smothers’ letter to Searcy and affidavit admitting to the Segars murder, and private investigator Scott Lewis’ interview of Smothers, featured in VOD’s first article on this case.
It includes multiple confession affidavits from Smothers addressed to Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and reporters Lester Holt and Erica Hill of “Dateline.” None of these officials responded. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Vincent-Smothers-confessions.pdf.
There are also notarized affidavits from Marzell Black and Anthony Lovejoy, who both said that Smothers talked to them in prison about committing the Segars murder. Black was Smothers’ accomplice in the contract murder of Rose Cobb, police officer David Cobb’s wife.
Another affidavit is from Frederick Daniels, the brother of Jeffery Daniels, identified by Smothers as his accomplice in 2004 Segars murder. Frederick Daniels attests that his brother was indeed killed two week after the Segars murder. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Frederick-Daniels-affidavit-re-death-of-Jeffery-Daniels.pdf.
VOD noted earlier that Dale Collins, the DPD officer in charge of Searcy’s case, was involved in arresting and jailing at least 20 individuals who were kept in the Wayne County Jail in comfortable conditions for use as “snitches” in various cases, according to an article in “Truth Out.”
Now VOD has obtained news articles by Free Press reporters David Ashenfelter and David Zeman, which cite the long history of DPD’s use of warrantless witness arrests, dragnets, and other intimidation resulting in perjured testimony at trial. At least one case cited involved Dale Collins as the arresting officer.
Such practices may have resulted in false testimony at Searcy’s trial by Muscat’s key witness, DeAnthony Witcher, and by Boatwright and Jeffries. Dale Collins was the DPD officer in charge of Searcy’s case.
The Free Press articles told the stories of various victims of the round-ups, including Detroiter Terral Wade.
Wade said in her lawsuit that Collins called her at work and asked to interview her about the murder of Anthony Riggs in 1991. She said she had to pick up her toddler at her mother’s house and Collins said he would drive her there.
Instead, the Free Press reported, “she was taken to an interrogation room in Detroit’s homicide unit and locked up, the suit said. She was not allowed to call home. When she banged on the door, Sgt. William Rice handcuffed her, then threw her against the wall, breaking her nose. She was then forced to give a statement on [Anthony] Riggs’ murder.
The March-April 2001 Criminal Defense Newsletter outlined a federal class action lawsuit filed by prominent Detroit attorneys Mark Kriger, N.C. Deday LaRene, Justin Ravitz, Patricia Stamler, and Otis W Culpepper.
The lawsuit charged “that the homicide section of the Detroit Police Department has for years routinely arrested, threatened, and browbeaten persons who were not suspected of any crime, but who police believe had information about a homicide.”
The attorneys said such arrests in the absence of probable cause to believe individuals have committed a crime are civil rights violations and are unconstitutional. They said that such arrests in Detroit far exceeded proportionately the number of arrests in other major cities. These arrests were one cause for the federal consent decree imposed on the Detroit Police Department in 2001.
The prosecution’s theory of the case was that the Segars killing was a case of mistaken identity and that the real target was DeAnthony Witcher. They alleged that Witcher drove a car identical to Segars’ 2004 silver convertible Corvette, during the “Black Party” outside City Airport. Witcher was forced to testify after answering an investigative subpoena at the prosecutor’s office and after Judge Kenny granted him “use immunity,” which did not allow him to refuse to testify under his Fifth Amendment rights.
Prosecutor Muscat concealed from the defense that Witcher had also been arrested by Detroit police on Nov. 18, 2004, for carrying a concealed weapon, a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun, inside of his BLUE 1998 Corvette.
He was also driving without a license. N0 charges ever ensued from that arrest, although Witcher’s Corvette was impounded. It is likely it was THAT arrest which Muscat used to obtain a “use immunity” order from Judge Kenny which blocked Witcher from invoking the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying in the case.
Police did not have Thelonious Searcy’s name prior to Witcher’s arrest. A task force consisting of dozens of Detroit and FBI officers raided Searcy’s grandmother’s home shortly afterward, on Nov. 30, 2004. Searcy was there with his then wife and his two toddler daughters, having spent the night.
Mrs. Richardson told VOD that the arresting officer, Robert Bulgarelli, threw Searcy’s young wife to the ground and kicked her after breaking in without a warrant. Police allege Searcy hid in a closet, and told them “You might as well inject me now,” when they arrested him as well as his wife. Mrs. Richardson and Searcy’s wife denied both allegations. Searcy’s two toddler daughters were present in the home during the traumatic events.
Witcher testified that Searcy had a vendetta against him. He said Searcy shot him in the back outside a rental home owned by Witcher on Nov. 16, 2004, with the bullet exiting through his heart, and continued to threaten to kill him. Witcher allegedly had a quantity of marijuana at the house at the time. Witcher testified he did not seek charges against Searcy for trying to kill him, nor did the DPD bring any charges.
Eight witnesses all said they were with Searcy for hours during the time of Segars’ murder at an annual family barbecue on Balfour at Searcy’s mother’s home. Most said he never left the party except to use the bathroom in the house.
John Goodson, an investigator hired by Searcy’s defense, identified two other eyewitnesses, Chela Holmes and Robert Stringer, Kimberly Jeffries’ husband. Neither was called to testify at the trial. There are eyewitness accounts that Stringer objected vociferously to Collins forcing his wife to testify falsely, and was admonished by Muscat, who told him he was hurting the case against Searcy.
Boatwright was Witcher’s half-sister, and Jeffries was acquainted with him as well. However, at trial, according to the prosecutor’s response, she said she did not know Searcy.
Witcher’s uncle Harvey Witcher wrote that he overheard his nephew offering money to Boatwright to testify that she saw Searcy shoot Segars. Harvey Witcher himself later refused to identify Searcy as the man who earlier assaulted him, telling the court that he described his assailant as a “skinny man,” but was not using the term to identify Searcy, whose nickname was “Skinny Man.”
In an MLive article July 17, 2017, reporter Gus Burns wrote that Boatwright told him, “I was pregnant with my daughter when this happened . . . .Detectives, they literally, basically threatened and scared me into testifying against [Searcy].”
Burns said that Boatwright told him that police threatened to jail her and have Child Protective Services take custody of her unborn child, and also offered a “snitching check.” But Burns said Boatwright told him she was never paid by DPD.
He quotes her again, “I did see what I saw, but at the same time, I didn’t want any part of that. It wasn’t even about no money for me; they forced me to do it.”
Burns sought to cast doubt on the veracity of Smothers’ confession to the Segars murder. He inserted what he called a “confession” given by Smothers to two Detroit police detectives that does not admit any killings prior to 2006.
However, the “confession” is actually a jumbled exchange between Smothers and the detectives, frequently not using the names of those killed or the dates and circumstances. In it, Smothers says he can’t clearly remember when he first killed someone. (See link to MLive story below which embedded the exchange.)
It was Detroit Police Sergeant Ira Todd who took Smothers’ formal confession to twelve murders, including the four on Runyon Street for which Davontae Sanford was falsely accused. Todd was later demoted after he connected the drug trafficking involved in various cases to an alleged associate of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s in Kentucky. He filed a Whistleblower lawsuit.
Of the two eyewitnesses the prosecutor says DID identify Searcy at trial, Tiffany King had never been involved in a photo or in-person line-up to identify Searcy. She said her first time seeing him after the killing was in court. The fourth, Dwayne Dye, said during a line-up and in court that he could not identify Searcy by face, only by the clothes he was wearing.
Searcy’s key defense witness, Harvey Witcher, the uncle of DeAnthony Witcher, was not called to the stand after he earlier testified in an evidentiary hearing that police tried to force him to say that Searcy shot him in a street assault. During that hearing, Witcher refused to identify Searcy, telling the court that he said a “skinny man” assaulted him. He said he was NOT referring to Searcy, whose nickname was Skinny Man.
Witcher also wrote that he overheard his nephew offering money to Boatwright to testify that she saw Searcy shoot Segars.
VOD is additionally attaching evidence that the Detroit Crime Lab, shut down after errors by P.O. Kevin Reed and others were discovered later, falsified ballistics evidence in Searcy’s case by replacing one 9 mm. shell casing originally reported found at the scene with a .45 caliber shell casing, using the same evidence tag. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Falsified-ballistics-reports.compressed.pdf
Reed is the Crime Lab officer, not certified as a forensics specialist, who testified at Searcy’s trial regarding two shell casings allegedly matching a .45 caliber gun police claim to have found in Searcy’s grandmother’s home at the time of his arrest. Searcy and his family said it was not his gun. No testimony about fingerprints on the gun was ever taken, to determine who had handled it. It was not given to the defense or entered into evidence until after Searcy’s trial had already started.
Smothers’ version of the murder of Segars and wounding of Minner is actually highly consistent with the description of .40 and .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene in the ballistics report. He said he shot Segars with a .40 caliber gun, while Daniels fired a .45 caliber gun. Witnesses at the scene said police fired shots also, possibly accounting for the original 9 mm. shell casing found there, but the officers denied firing their weapons.
Searcy’s brief with motion for a new trial:
JUDGE KENNY’S ORDER FOR PROSECUTiON RESPONSE::
JUDGE BRIAN SULLIVAN’S ORDER IN SANFORD CASE (attached to Prosecutor’s response in Searcy case):
TEXT OF THELONIOUS SEARCY’S LETTER TO DPD CHIEF JAMES CRAIG: