The newscast above was published in 2021; Terry Lamont Wilson has now been in the Macomb County Jail for three years.
Terry Wilson faces new trial in Macomb County this year after judge threw out 2014 conviction due to racist comments by member of all-white jury
Wilson’s mother says, “My son is still not safe in Macomb County,” and wants a change of venue.
Macomb County known for openly racist politicians, employees, courts and police, national neo-Nazi group
Wilson testified he was defending himself in chaotic scene during shooting death of a friend, but had no intent to kill
“Unrepresentative juries . . .also produce wrongful convictions and unfair sentences that disproportionately burden Black people and people of color-” 2021 Equal Justice Initiative study
By Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor
with Diane Bukowski, Editor
Terry Lamont Wilson, in prison since 2014 on a charge of first-degree murder, won a new trial in 2019 after his appellate attorney Wade Fink discovered that the jury foreman on his all-white jury, Harvey Labadie, repeatedly made racist remarks during deliberations.
Despite the testimony of four fellow jurors, Labadie denied making the remarks when confronted by a Channel 7 News reporter. “I didn’t say racist comments. I have never said racist comments in my life. I am a Democrat.
Fink said at the time, “Huge victory for our criminal justice system but also another reminder that pernicious racial bias continues to exist.”
Wilson is still locked up three years after Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Faunce, who presided over his original trial, ordered a new trial because of Labadie’s comments. At the same time, she ordered him remanded to the Macomb County Jail without bond. She has repeatedly denied motions asking for changes in his terms of confinement due to his health issues.
Wilson’s mother LaShanda Kelley told VOD she fears that flagrant racial bias is still rampant in Macomb County and wants a change of venue.
“My son is not safe in Macomb County,” she said. “He needs a change of venue. Jurors openly discussed the trial on Facebook during deliberations and one referred to my son as a ‘n—r’ repeatedly. That juror called my son ‘ghetto,’ implying that is the way THEY all are. One juror said she felt bullied into voting in favor of the verdict. Even though Terry has been granted a new trial, I still worry that he won’t receive a fair trial again.”
Judge Faunce’s 2019 ruling vacating Wilson’s conviction was widely covered by the media, but little was said about the all-white jury.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), headed by nationally prominent Attorney Bryan Stevenson, known for his historic U.S. Supreme Court victories on behalf of juvenile defendants, published a 2021 study, “Race and the Jury.”
It begins, “Unrepresentative juries not only exclude and marginalize communities of color, they also produce wrongful convictions and unfair sentences that disproportionately burden Black people and people of color. Our failure to remedy this longstanding problem of racial bias imperils the legitimacy of the U.S. legal system.”
The report says the entire judicial system plays a role in producing all-white and non-representative juries, including judges, prosecutors, and even defense attorneys who do not challenge such juries.
It notes that, historically, not one top court in the 50 states has upheld such a challenge. However, Michigan’s Supreme Court, which has recently issued many ground-breaking rulings on behalf of defendants, may want to take a look at Wilson’s case in the event that another non-representative jury is selected or other indications of racism occur.
MACOMB COUNTY’S HISTORY RIFE WITH RACISM
Macomb County has been dominated for decades by white elected politicians, courts and police. In 1972, pro-segregation presidential candidate George Wallace won the Democratic primary election there.
In recent history, leaders have included long-time Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, known for his comments likening Blacks to chimpanzees, using the “n” word, and imitating a monkey with a banana. Warren is the third largest city in Michigan. Its voters have elected and re-elected Fouts four times so far with majorities as large as 85 percent of the electorate. He is currently seeking a charter revision so he can run a fifth time.
Terry Wilson is from Clinton Township, also the birthplace of Richard Spencer, leader of the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, termed a neo-Nazi hate group by civil rights organizations.
The group has faced heated protests at Michigan State University and other colleges nationally where its leaders were scheduled to speak.
Another Foundation leader is Paul Smith, who ran for mayor in Sterling Heights, the fourth largest city in the state, and still has significant support there. Deadline Detroit said, “He and his wife, council candidate Moira Smith, refer to Latino immigrants as ‘wetbacks’ and gays as ‘fags.’ At one rally, Smith displayed a protest sign depicting President Barack Obama’s severed head on a metal pole.” See: Deadline Detroit | Selweski: Hate Group Cozies Up to 2 Macomb Cities; What Does That Say About Them?
In 2020, three Macomb County Morgue employees were fired after allegations of sexual harassment and racism. They involved one worker bringing in a cake with a Black penis in its frosting the day after the murder of George Floyd. They were also accused of mocking Black family members, including one incident where a worker said, ‘Show them a picture of his penis. Maybe they’ll recognize him by that.” 3 Macomb County morgue employees fired amid allegations of racism and sexism | Metro Detroit News | Detroit | Detroit Metro Times
Former county Prosecutor Eric Smith, who was in office during Wilson’s trial, was sentenced to 21 months in prison in February on charges of “obstruction of justice,” related to his theft of over $74,000 from his campaign funds, and suborning perjury from witnesses who testified in front of a federal grand jury.
Current Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido has faced allegations of sexist behavior since his time in the State Senate, which have been renewed by his current employees.
Lucido is quoted in the Channel 4 broadcast at the top of this story saying that he is confident Wilson’s second trial will result in another murder conviction, although Judge Faunce introduced a third charge of voluntary manslaughter after hearing testimony at the first trial. Assistant Prosecutor Jurji Fedorak argued for first-degree murder. Fedorak told the all-white jury, “He wanted to show how big of a man he is in his neighborhood.”
Wilson says prosecution wants him to accept plea deal to second-degree murder, with a minimum sentence of 25 years, by August 16
Wilson was 21 when he shot a lifelong friend, Willie Clark, 24 in Prince Drewry Park in Clinton Township during an argument witnessed by dozens of people. The argument involved not only Wilson and Clark, but Clark’s two brothers. Such confrontations among Black youths are becoming more common nationally as their living conditions and prospects for the future deteriorate.
“I honestly feared for my life when Willie came galloping towards me yelling angrily after first going to his car,” Wilson told VOD. “I thought he had retrieved a gun because he was known to carry one. I was outnumbered and one of his brothers was twice my size. One brothert initiated the verbal argument and that caused the arguing between Willie and myself. Plus I suffered from an eye condition which made it difficult for me to see clearly and precisely what exactly Willie and his brothers were doing. This was happening real fast causing confusion and heightened my fear. So, I reacted instinctively thinking that I was in imminent danger of harm.
“Yes, I am responsible for Willie’s death, but there was never any intent and I didn’t commit or plan any premeditated murder. I have been held in jail for three long years awaiting a new trial. And I have a legitimate concern that somehow the same thing will occur again with a jury not being fair and impartial. I pray that a lesser charge of manslaughter be offered by the Macomb County Prosecutors Office, as the circumstances, evidence and facts surrounding this case supports such a resolution.”
But Wilson said his current defense attorney, Gary F. Kennedy II, told him the prosecution is offering him only a plea deal involving conviction of second-degree murder with a minimum 25 year sentence. The prosecution wants his decision on whether to accept the deal by a “final pre-trial hearing” August 16. The hearing is one of a series of previous “final” pre-trial hearings on Wilson’s court docket.
VOD’s legal consultant says no prosecutor can guarantee any sentence since that function is up to the judge. Even a second-degree murder conviction can result in a sentence up to “parolable life.” There are still dozens of so-called “parolable lifers” in prison in Michigan, many for decades, due to a parole board that often refers only to the original crime, not evidence of rehabilitation, in its assessments. Michigan has the longest sentences in the country, with individuals in the Department of Correction currently serving an average of 126 percent of their minimum sentences so far.
HISTORY OF THE TRIAL AND RE-TRIAL
The racist comments by jury foreman Harvey Labadie were revealed by fellow jurors, who testified at an evidentiary hearing in 2018 that he referred to Wilson as a ‘n—–,’ and had already formed an opinion inside the jury room, as to what the punishment should be.
Judge Faunce held the evidentiary hearing in June, 2018 after Wilson filed a motion for relief from judgment in her court. She granted the motion Aug 9, 2018, vacating Wilson’s conviction, but also ordered that he continued to be held without bond pending a new trial. OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFT TERRY WILSON’S MTN FOR RELIEF FROM JDGMT; DEFT’S CONVICTIONS ARE VACATED; DEFT TO BE HELD W/NO BOND -SGD
Labadie initially complained about being selected for jury duty in Wilson’s trial, then posted comments on his Facebook page during deliberations which showed he had already formed an opinion on his verdict. At least one improper Facebook post by Juror Gary Ludwig was made inside the jury room, as jurors were going over the case.
It should be noted there are municipalities within Macomb County with populations up to approximately 47 percent Black, including Warren, Roseville, Eastpointe, and others. Macomb County’s entire population of Black residents has risen from 11 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2020 showing the rapid growth. AP Jurji Fedorak evidently excluded Black jurors from Terry Wilson’s jury to ensure that an all-white jury would be impaneled. But there is no evidence on the record available to VOD that his defense attorney at trial challenged that selection. The EJI report says defense attorneys are frequently too fearful of prosecutors to do so.
A just remedy would be to offer a ‘Nolo Contendere’ plea to Manslaughter and in a showing of good faith, grant Wilson a bond pending the completion of trial proceedings. If that does not happen, the Michigan Supreme Court may eventually find that Wilson has cause for demanding a change of venue.
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