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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
To follow “Unjust and unsolved, go to https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/unjust-unsolved/id1527777879?uo=4 and https://www.maggiefreleng.com/unjust–unsolved.html.
Hey @Metallica @larsulrich @BookOfMetallicA Innocent man @freejamiesnow is a fan from behind bars! Can you please share his story?! He also oddly looks like James Hetfield! @ObsessedNet @patrickhinds https://t.co/jskrhiC8Ta
— Maggie Freleng (@maggiefreleng) September 17, 2020
“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
U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood’s order for a new trial:
6th Circuit ruling on Michigan AG’s appeal of Judge Page Hood’s order
Judge Denise Page Hood’s opinion on remand from Sixth Circuit Court:
State AG objection to Darrell Ewing motion for emergency habeas relief:
Darrell Ewing’s pro se response to State AG:
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