Early DNA results ruled out Calhoun as rape perpetrator in 2007

Court-appointed attorneys nevertheless advised him to plead guilty, waive appeal of right

Conviction dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be reinstated

Ricardo Ferrell

DPD cop David Kane broke into hearing in unprecedented event, claiming Calhoun should not be exonerated

By Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor 
with Diane Bukowski, VOD Editor

May 15, 2o22

Terance Calhoun (in cap) is joyously embraced by his family on his release from prison April 27, 2022. (Photo: State Appellate Defenders Office)

Imprisoned for 15-years for crimes he didn’t commit, Terance Calhoun reacted with a smile on April 27, 2022, as Third Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kelly Ramsey announced the dismissal of his 2007 convictions for Kidnapping and Criminal Sexual Conduct with prejudice (meaning the charges can never be reinstated).

He was flanked by his attorneys Valerie Newman, head of Wayne County’s Conviction Integrity Unit, and Michael Mittlestat of the State Appellate Defender’s Office.

In a just world, this moment would have happened 15 years ago. In fact, Calhoun would never have been tried.

A lengthy Statement of Facts attached to Judge Ramsey’s order says, “On June 15, 2007, Short Tandem Repeat (STR) analysis was completed on the condom collected at the scene of the sexual assault on Victim 2. That analysis excluded Mr. Calhoun as a donor of biological material.” STR was a predecessor to current methods of DNA testing.

The Statement and Calhoun’s court documents show that court-appointed attorneys at the trial and appellate levels advised Calhoun to plead guilty on Feb. 21, 2007 prior to his sentencing March 27, 2007, and to waive his appeal of right on September 10, 2007. Prior to those events, Calhoun was determined “competent to waive his Miranda rights” after a forensic exam that also found he still had “cognitive deficits.”

The Statement said there was no evidence that Calhoun’s attorneys had copies of the STR results. The test results were discovered by the State Appellate Defender’s Office in 2019.

See: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/WCPO-_2022_april_27_-terance_calhoun_is_exonerated_-ff-1.pdf

DPD Officer David Kane is seen in screenshot at upper left, strutting out of the courtroom after talking to Judge Ramsey (r), who is looking at what he gave her.

In an unprecedented move that echoed the judicial system’s appalling rush to judgement in 2007, Detroit Police Officer David Kane intruded in Judge Ramsey’s courtroom during Calhoun’s first scheduled exoneration hearing April 22. He handed her a folder that he claimed contained evidence that she needed to look over before exonerating Calhoun. News reports indicated that the Judge and Kane knew each other.

Judge Ramsey handed the folder over to Attorney Newman. Newman had already made a determination based on DNA evidence which pointed toward another perpetrator that scientifically showed Calhoun was not responsible, but she still reviewed the file in question and reached the same conclusion that her office would still recommend that Calhoun be exonerated. She said there was nothing new in the materials Kane presented.

Judge Ramsey’s five day adjournment had many in the legal community wondering if the delay would keep Calhoun behind bars, even though DNA evidence undeniably cleared him of the sexual assault and kidnapping convictions.

Calhoun’s attorneys were very displeased by Kane’s action. In a release, the Detroit Police Department said Kane’s action violated DPD policy and procedure, which does not allow for him to blatantly interfere in a courtroom hearing. However, to date, no known disciplinary action has been taken against him.

James Calhoun MDOC photo

This goes to show the arrogance of some police investigators and the total disregard for fundamental fairness, even when undisputable scientific evidence is right before their eyes No wonder there’s a high number of wrongful convictions in Michigan, especially in Wayne County.

Fortunately for Calhoun he was exonerated, but another wrongfully convicted man named Calhoun wasn’t so fortunate.

James Calhoun, who was housed at the Woodland Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake along with Calhoun, died September 23rd, 2021 from his battle with cancer. Unfortunately, James Calhoun didn’t get the chance to prove his innocence for the 2005 murder of which he was convicted. His daughter, Keila Chambliss, continues to fight relentlessly trying to get her father’s name cleared, even though he’s no longer alive. She’s reached out to the Conviction Integrity Unit and was told the case is being reviewed.

Last September, I helped put together a two-part interview of four exonerees on the Erica Lynn Speaks Podcast. During the interviews, James Calhoun was mentioned and remembered. In October, I wrote a follow-up story in VOD called “Wrongfully Convicted and Unlawfully Imprisoned” where again Calhoun’s case was highlighted. Also, I included the case of Paul Russ, who’s been in prison 38 years on a wrongful conviction. Recently, I received a message from his fiancé Hazel Gunter expressing her concerns about Russ still being in prison based on the shady tactics of the detective in his case.

Paul Russ, in prison since 1984. MDOC photo

“Paul and I have been told by many people to have patience,” she said. “However, information discovered by Mrs. Claudia Whitman that showed a pattern by Detroit Homicide Detective/Sgt. Elwood Gunderson of similar wrongdoings in other cases, a year apart from Paul’s clearly suggest the detective knowingly and deliberately framed him for a murder he didn’t commit.

“There has been a new witness to come forward and provide crucial information in his sworn affidavit that exonerates Paul which reveals he saw and witnessed someone other than Paul committing this crime, Now the new witness has took ill and he’s in real bad shape in the hospital, where he’s not expected to recover. They keep telling Paul and I to be patient, but what if the witness’ new information doesn’t get on the record? Will Paul Russ also die in prison like others have? As his new witness remains in the hospital apparently facing the reality of not pulling through, what else should Paul do, as he patiently awaits for the inevitable?” says Gunter.

I have been writing stories about innocent people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, while I myself have been serving decades in prison as a result of grave police misconduct, fabricated statements, faulty evidence gathering and the use of incentive seeking witnesses used by police and prosecutors. This writer can only shake his head at the many injustices he’s seen, and wonder if the hundreds, if not thousands of innocent people will ever be exonerated. More resources are needed to effectively equip these conviction integrity units with the tools they need to review more innocence claims and move expeditiously when undisputable evidence is discovered and proves the accused isn’t responsible for the crime(s).

Additionally, there needs to be an even broader movement to bring our brothers and sisters home, to end life without parole sentencing and other monstrously inhuman  practices contributing to mass incarceration.


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