Derrico Searcy (l at defendant table) and Darrell Ewing (r) listen as Judge Michael Hathaway outlines opinion on hearing and orders a new trial for both

Some of the many supporters who cheered Judge Hathaway’s ruling for a new trial Oct. 24, 2019.

Judge Michael Hathaway gives order Oct. 24 after evidentiary hearing

 Ruling not only due to trial jury’s illegal use of internet, but also to lack of “overwhelming evidence of guilt”

 Prosecution says they plan to file application for leave to appeal, meeting of lawyers with judge set for Nov. 22 

Ewing, Searcy remain in MDOC pending further developments

 By Diane Bukowski

 October 27, 2019

Defendants Derrico Searcy and Darrell Ewing listen to testimony of former jurors Aug. 26, 2019.

DETROIT – A courtroom packed with family members and friends of Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy erupted in cries of joy Oct. 24 as Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway ordered a new trial for the two young men in a murder case for which they have spent nearly two decades in prison.

Judge Hathaway’s order capped an evidentiary hearing held on the trial jury’s use of Facebook and other gang-related internet research during their deliberations. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood ordered the hearing after the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court partially struck down her original order for a new trial.

Ewing and Searcy were convicted of murdering J.B. Watson Dec. 29, 2009, in an allegedly gang-related shooting at Harper and Van Dyke. They have been in prison since 2010. Afterward, another prisoner, Tyree Washington, came forward repeatedly to declare under oath that he, not Ewing and Searcy, committed the murder, but it was the juror misconduct that led to Judge Hood’s original order for a new trial.

Former Juror Kathleen Byrnes

Hathaway said regarding his assessment of the hearing, “. . .there was extraneous evidence that came into the deliberative process that was outcome determinative,” Hathaway declared. “It changed the vote of at least one juror.”

That juror was Kathleen Byrnes, who gave powerful, moving testimony during the evidentiary hearing about changing her vote during the 2010 trial. Weeping, she said she has felt that she did something terrible ever since.

Hathaway continued, “I am also obligated to observe under the Budzyn case whether or not the evidence of guilt was otherwise overwhelming . . . The trial evidence in this case was certainly not what we would call overwhelming. There was an identification made by a witness who claims to have seen the defendant through a side rear view mirror while he was crouching down, which is virtually impossible to imagine. There was a lot of other circumstantial evidence that still didn’t lead up to a case where the evidence of guilt was overwhelming. Then of course you had the statement against penal interest that came in where [Tyree] Washington supposedly confessed to the crime, so it wasn’t an ironclad case.”

Hathaway said he was therefore granting both defendants a new trial, issuing an order but not a written opinion. He sent both back to the Michigan Department of Corrections pending whether the prosecution files an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Appeals Court within a 28-day limit. AP     said they will definitely do so. Hathaway set a date of Nov. 22 for the attorneys and himself to confer on the status

Phillip Comorski, attorney for Ewing, shown in video above, said he felt the defense is now “in the driver’s seat.” He said he believed Judge Hathaway had thoroughly reviewed all the testimony from the hearing as well as transcripts from the trial and rendered a fair ruling. He added that they would deal with any appeal by the defense. Many have wondered how the prosecutor’s office would handle any new trial, since Tyree Washington, who confessed multiple times to the murder of J.B. Watson, is available to testify in person, which he did not do at the original trial.

Family members of Darrell Ewing, including his mother Sonya Dodson, wept with happiness in each others arms in the hallway after Judge Hathaway’s ruling. 

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Donations for the Voice of Detroit are urgently needed to keep this paper, which is published pro bono by folks on extremely limited incomes, going. We are among the few newspapers that covers cases such as that of Ewing and Searcy, cases which affect those who would otherwise receive no coverage. Black youth across Detroit and the U.S. continue to be funneled into the prisons, virtually anonymously, by an injustice system that should force this country to bow its head in shame.

Charles Lewis, now free after 42 years in prison since 17.

Recently, VOD played a large role in freeing juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, running 46 stories on his case including evidence pointing to his innocence, after he spent 42 years in prison. VOD focuses strongly on  the issue of racist mass incarceration in the United States, which has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of it’s incarcerated population.

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  1. Kimberly McConnell says:

    Thank God you had a fair judge this time. Shame on the prosecutors in your case. The fact that someone else confessed to the crime speaks for itself.

  2. Doyle O'COnnor says:

    COngrats on some great reporting & on the effort for a new trial

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