LANSING, MI RALLY V. WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS, PRISON ABUSE, PAROLE BOARD FLOPS FRI. MAY 14 12 noon – 4 pm

RELEASE THE INNOCENT, MEDICALLY FRAIL AND OVERSENTENCED!

FRIDAY MAY 14, 2021 12 noon to 4 pm

MICHIGAN STATE CAPITOL BLDG. 110 N. Capital Ave. Lansing, MI

Speakers include:

MICHIGAN EXONEREES

Larry  Smith, Lacino Hamilton, Kenneth Nixon     

 Sponsored by Paula Kensu and David Stinson with t he New (ERA) Ethical Responsibility and Accountability in Criminal Justice

BY Paula Kensu  

David Shelton (center) with son David Stinson (l) and daughter Mariah Stinson (r).

The State Conviction Integrity Unit  was created and is desperately needed and appreciated, it’s grossly understaffed and there is no clear and expedient path to freedom for those wrongfully incarcerated in Michigan prisons. We want to reinforce to Michigan leaders our SUPPORT of criminal justice reform – including releasing the Innocent, Medically Frail and Over-sentenced! This is a SUPPORT rally – not a bash against Whitmer or Nessel in any way!

We can be better. The Clemency process is BROKEN – there are clear gaps that need to be addressed. If the parole board doesn’t consider innocence, then they should NOT be part of the process at all!

The Parole Board continues to Flop eligible parolees for no reason or for reasons completely out of the inmates control such as not completing classes that have been suspended due to COVID. Less inmates were released during COVID than in 2019!

Temujin and Paula Kensu.

The MDOC is lying to Governor Whitmer and her staff. Clear example: Prisoners are NOT given bleach to clean their cells. This is one of MANY lies she is being told.

Prisoners are abused mentally and physically (extremely poor diet, denied healthcare, denied gym/yard time, denied showers and thrown in the hole if they have COVID or were exposed to COVID or any other reason the COs come up with on any given day). MDOC Prisoners get NO healthcare treatment. Inmates are spun and spun and nothing gets fixed. These abuses need to stop!

RELEASE THE INNOCENT, MEDICALLY FRAIL AND OVERSENTENCED!

Show up and show Governor Whitmer that you SUPPORT the INNOCENT,  SUPPORT releasing the medically frail and over-sentenced and you SUPPORT more oversight into Heidi Washington’s “leadership” in the MDOC.

VOD has covered the wrongful convictions of (l to r) Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kensu–SEE STORY LINKS BELOW

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IN NEW ORLEANS, D.A. JASON WILLIAMS IS FREEING VICTIMS OF ‘JIM CROW’ JUSTICE, REMAKING SYSTEM

Williams addresses illegal ‘Jim Crow’ convictions by non-unanimous juries, juveniles held for LWOP, excessive sentencing, obstacles to parole 

Dismissed over 400 criminal cases pending under previous D.A. in first month in office

Louisiana was one of only 2 states in the U.S. still allowing convictions by non-unanimous juries

U.S. Supreme Court struck down split jury verdicts in  Ramos v. Louisiana, in April 2020; now Williams is campaigning to make ruling retroactive, has already released many in New Orleans convicted by non-unanimous juries

“While Williams said his office is continuing on its “painstaking” path to reevaluate cases — an estimated 340 of them are in New Orleans — a highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the coming weeks would decide whether its previous finding in Ramos v. Louisiana (2020)  that makes non-unanimous juries unconstitutional should also be applied retroactively to defendants who had exhausted their appeals. ” — NBC NEWS

NEW ORLEANS PARISH D.A. JASON WILLIAMS IS PART OF NATIONAL WAVE OF PROGRESSIVE PROSECUTORS WHO HAVE SWEPT INTO OFFICE SINCE 2018 AS VOTERS DECLARE AN END TO ‘JIM CROW’ JUSTICE

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Victoria Burton-Harris (l) ran against Kym Worthy in 2020.

VOD is featuring this story on New Orleans D.A. Jason Williams, from The Appeal,  following up on previous VOD articles related to progressive prosecutors across the country. (See links below story.)

Last July, Victoria Burton-Harris, part of the same wave of activist attorneys, came close to defeating Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, declaring Worthy the “Queen of Mass Incarceration.” She cited Worthy’s record of 16 years of wrongful convictions, refusal to  prosecute killer cops, refusal to withdraw LWOP recommendations for juvenile lifers, and other injuries inflicted on the people of Wayne County.

Victoria Burton-Harris is now the Chief Assistant Prosecuting Atty. under Eli Savit in Washtenaw County, also part of the national progressive wave.

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In Nation’s Incarceration Capital, a New D.A. Is Freeing People From Prison – The Appeal

Katie Jane Fernelius Apr 21, 2021

Jason Williams, New Orleans Parish D.A.

In recent years, prosecutors on a mission to challenge mass incarceration have been using their power to keep people out of prison, but now they’re beginning to turn their attention to those who are already locked up. Few have pursued this as promptly and publicly as Jason Williams, the new district attorney of New Orleans, who may be setting the bar for DAs nationwide. And this focus could be transformative in New Orleans, the largest city in a state known as the nation’s incarceration capital.

Since he entered office in January, Williams has rolled out sweeping changes. He has granted new trials to nearly two dozen people convicted by split juries, announced he would no longer oppose parole applications, dropped his predecessor’s efforts to maintain life without parole sentences for people convicted when they were minors, and moved to secure the release of multiple wrongfully convicted people.

“There are innocent people in jail,” said Williams, who was elected in 2020 on a progressive platform. “There are people in jail for sentences that are far longer than they should be. … There are people who got convicted without a fair trial.”

This retrospective approach to addressing injustice is taking shape beyond Louisiana too; prosecutors like George Gascón in Los Angeles County and Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore have established resentencing units that have reviewed lengthy sentences and released those serving them.

Prof. Lara Bazelon

This is a big departure from what has been the norm for decades. The traditional focal point of conviction integrity units has been innocence claims. But the post-conviction reviews that are springing up, in certain places thanks to legislative changes in state law, are taking a broader look at redressing excessive sentencing and other drivers of mass incarceration.

“[Prosecutors] can have an enormous impact for post-conviction review because it’s not limited to people who are factually innocent,” said Lara Bazelon, a law professor and the director of the criminal juvenile justice and racial justice clinical programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “They can work backward and try to rectify really draconian sentences, and I feel like Orleans Parish is kind of ground zero for that.”

Williams has also taken steps to prevent people from going to jail in the first place by directing his staff not to prosecute for possession of personal amounts of most drugs.

One driver of mass incarceration in Louisiana is the “multiple-bill” statute, an “habitual offender” sentence enhancement. The statute enables prosecutors to use prior convictions as leverage to force longer sentences.

While campaigning last year, Williams pledged never to use the multi-bill statute. That commitment has expanded as his office now also reviews multi-bill cases handled by previous DAs. In Louisiana, nearly 40 percent of those imprisoned are serving maximum sentences that exceed 20 years.

Norris Henderson, Exec. Director Voice of the Incarcerated (VOTE)

“The fact that they are looking at these cases is really unprecedented,” said Norris Henderson, founder and executive director of VOTE, an organization of formerly incarcerated people who work to end mass incarceration. “The ‘long-timers’ are there [in prison] because they got these habitual sentences … And what we found out during our research was that it wasn’t really but three or four parishes using the multi-bill exclusively, [including] Orleans Parish.”

Emily Maw, the Civil Rights Division chief under Williams, estimates that nearly 700 people are in prison from Orleans Parish because of excessive sentences imposed by  prosecutors who used the multi-bill statute.

In her first weeks on the job, Maw joined with a group of defense attorneys to motion for a “negotiated settlement” in court which enabled Herbert Estes, a New Orleans man with leukemia, to be released from prison. Estes had been serving a life without parole sentence after former DA Harry Connick Sr. used the multi-bill statute to compel the sentence. This month, the office supported the release of Guy Frank, who received a multi-bill sentence during Connick’s tenure and was in prison for 20 years for stealing two shirts.

“We know that Orleans Parish is mass producing often-inaccurate convictions and certainly excessive sentences,” Maw said. “We have to try to remedy those cases by category, because there’s just so many of them—more so than any other district attorney’s office in the country.”

Maw, a former director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, which advocated for Frank’s release, says that in addition to tackling multi-bill cases, her division is identifying who is in prison because of non-unanimous juries.

In Louisiana, non-unanimous, or split, jury convictions were written into the state constitution in 1898 as a defense by white lawmakers eager to quell the influence of Black jurors. This law disadvantaged Black people, according to The New Orleans Advocate, by acting “as a capstone to trial system that becomes more titled against black defendants at each stage: when jurors are summoned, when they’re picked for juries, and in deliberation rooms, where voices of dissent can be ignored.”

Emily Maw

According to Maw, approximately 340 New Orleanians are in state prison based on a conviction by a split jury.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that guilty verdicts for criminal trials must be unanimous. The Court’s decision in Ramos vs. Louisiana affected cases still in the appeals process, but doesn’t apply to old cases. However, Williams’s office has decided to waive objections to new trials for those convicted by split juries even if those cases are no longer pending appeal. Already, two dozen new trials are underway.

Ben Cohen, one of the lawyers who led the Ramos lawsuit, now serves as chief of the Appeals Division under Williams.

Ben Cohen at left, with Jamila Johnson, Calvin Duncan, Shanita Farris, Erica Novlance of Promise of Justice Initiative, after U.S. Supreme Court victory in Evangelisto Ramos v. Louisiana.

“Our job is to do justice, not to defend convictions or secure convictions,” Cohen said. “We would be avoiding our legal and moral responsibility if we didn’t look backward, and we only looked forward.”

There are numerous ways to do that, Cohen told the Appeal: Political Report. Prosecutors have the discretion to permit opportunities for commutations, clemency, or parole. These can be avenues to remedy cases where the factors working against defendants aren’t as cut and dry. “[Non-unanimous juries and the habitual offender statute] are the most obvious catalysts for injustice, but they are not the only ones,” Cohen said. He noted that shoddy police work, speedy courtroom trials, and broader conditions of poverty have also stacked the deck against people accused of crimes.

Cohen added that the office will no longer use procedural barriers to slow down appeals or motions for post-conviction relief. This is part of a broader policy of the office to stop creating obstacles to release by default.

“One of the first policies that [Williams’s office] produced was that they were no longer going to send [prosecutors] to parole hearings and contest everything,” Henderson said. “That was the first thing that gave me an indicator that promises made were going to be promises kept.”

Williams announced in January that his office would no longer oppose any parole or pardon application. This is a major departure from his predecessor’s policy of routinely opposing applications.

Williams’s office has also withdrawn his predecessor’s bids to maintain life without parole sentences for people convicted as children, enabling them to apply for parole.

Leon Cannizaro, former Orleans Parish D.A.

In 2012 and 2016, the Supreme Court ended mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences, and applied this ruling retroactively. In response, Louisiana made people sentenced while minors automatically eligible for parole unless DAs filed notices in court objecting to this. Williams’s predecessor Leon Cannizaro was doing just that in many cases. But Williams’s decision to withdraw those motions means that a dozen people will now be newly eligible to apply for parole.

Throughout the state, approximately 300 people are serving life without parole sentences for crimes that they committed while children.

“I know all 300 of them,” Henderson said. “Other people just see something abstract. But I see an individual who I know personally who is serving life without parole because he was a kid. … To see, one day, there’s no hope of you ever getting out of prison, and the next day you’re walking out the gate—that speaks volumes.”

Besides expanding the scope of post-conviction review, Williams’s office is still intent on rooting out wrongful convictions and freeing innocent people. In March, prosecutors worked with Bazelon to secure the release of one of her clients, Yutico Briley, who was serving a 60-year sentence for an armed robbery he didn’t commit.

Yutico Briley

Bazelon said the weighty sentence was handed down in a process that “probably lasted five minutes. It took less than five minutes to just throw him away. And I don’t think people understand that that is routine.”

Williams and his team have faced obstacles to their efforts: Not only is the new approach a vast culture change for many of the staff, but the processes for post-conviction review also have to be developed in an office with limited capacities and poor paperwork.

“This is extremely painstaking and difficult work,” Williams told the Political Report. “Our file clerks literally had to find these records that are all over the place and not in good working order. … They’re not well organized. They’re not electronically available. So, this review involves moving boxes in and out of the office.”

Williams hopes that all of these changes will improve the reputation of the office and encourage community members to want to work with prosecutors when they experience crime.

“We are repairing that breach of trust with our community,” said Williams. “I believe that we will find more robust participation in the process going forward in terms of new and existing cases if we can show that we are willing to do the hard work of confronting the sins of past administrations.”

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MOTHER’S DAY OF ACTION

TODAY AT 3 PM EDT

Mothers Day of Action

Free  Nagel park, 3100 Wabash, Detroit, MI 48216

Event by MI Liberation     Price: Free

 This Mothers Day Michigan Liberation is #ConnectingFamilies.

It’s time to #FreeBlackMamas , #EndCashBail , and secure #PhoneJustice for all!

Join Michigan Liberation this Sunday, May 9, 2021 for a rally and car caravan. We will meet at 3 pm with materials for signs and car decorations at Nagel Park, 3100 Wabash St, Detroit, MI 48216. The rally will start at 3:30 pm and focus on the fight to #EndCashBail and to secure #PhoneJustice across Michigan.

This event will be COVID-safe. Please stay inside vehicles unless otherwise instructed by car marshals. Masks and hand sanitizer will be provided to those who need it.

Can’t join the car caravan and rally?

Join our social media power hour this Sunday, May 9th at 4pm!

Follow Michigan Liberation on Facebook and @miliberation on Twitter and Instagram!

https://www.facebook.com/MichiganLiberation

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A Mother’s Day Tribute
by Ricardo Ferrell

This is dedicated to all the beautiful women around the globe, you’ve stood by us no matter what with patience like Job.

All of you are in deserving of being honored and praised, its time for real men to serve you all of your days.

So many women have been directly  impacted by this COVID-19, this disease has hit our people hard like nothing we’ve ever seen.

I think about the mother’s who have lost their child, isn’t it amazing how these women can still have a smile.

This shows they have the strength from their ancestors and Creator, in the midst of this crisis God is their motivator.

Our women are key to bringing life into the world, so tell me how can they not be our favorite girl.

Now is the time to say we’re sorry and ask their forgiveness, this is how solid men right their wrong and show their realness.

There’s not enough days in the calendar to properly honor you, but each day we live we can show our love is true.

Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor

The sacrifices our women have made time after time and still held strong, we must be honest and ask ourselves how can they be wrong.

Mere words will never be able to express how much you’re loved, that’s why you deserve your flowers now and gentleness like a dove.

And to all the mothers who have children locked in a cage, please know we understand what you’re going through and feel your rage.

Nothing can compare to your love not money or silver and gold, it can’t measure up you’ve stuck with us on that lonely road.

To all of us who have lost our mothers by death, always remember they’re still with us ’til our last breath.

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SEEDS OF HUMANITY BLOSSOM IN A MICHIGAN COURTROOM AS JUVENILE LIFER WINS OPPORTUNITY FOR PAROLE

Community mural initiated by Christopher Cardinale on wall of the Robert N. Davoren Complex, Rikers Island. NY.  It quotes the late South African President Nelson Mandela, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” The heart over Mandela’s chest signifies strength, perseverance, and love; his fist represents victory over huge odds and racism. Mandela, his wife Winnie, and the global anti-apartheid movement won his freedom from prison, after 27 years.

Sentenced to LWOP at 17, Victor Polk wins re-sentencing to term of years

Judge Elizabeth Kelly’s decision reflects “overwhelming majority of Michigan judges” (94%) striking down JLWOP sentences in re-hearings

Family of victim forgives Polk at hearing, wishes him well in life

By Efrén Paredes, Jr.

May 6, 2021

Victor Lee Polk/MDOC 

In 1993 a 17-year-old Flint youth named Victor Polk was charged, along with four other juveniles, for the armed robbery of a store and shooting death of a man.

He was subsequently convicted by a Genesee County jury for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and as the principal person responsible for the shooting. The four other juveniles were convicted of lesser offenses.

Polk was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) for the shooting and life for the armed robbery. He is one of Michigan’s 367 juvenile lifers, people originally sentenced to LWOP for crimes they were convicted of committing when they were minors.

I met Polk when he first entered the prison system at the Michigan Reformatory (MR) in 1994 when he was 18 years old. MR was a medium security prison that housed incarcerated people between the ages of 16 and 25. At the time we met I was 21 and had already been incarcerated five years.

MR is one of only three completely walled prisons in Michigan. It was built in 1877 and its walls resemble those ringing a medieval castle. For decades it was referred to as “gladiator school” because of its reputation for being one of the most dangerous prisons in the state.

I was housed at MR three different times between 1989 and 1995. I first arrived at age 16 and was the youngest person there at the time. It was the first prison I went to after leaving the Reception and Guidance Center, where people initially go from the county jail to be processed into the prison system shortly after they are sentenced.

Michigan Reformatory at Ionia.

While at MR I witnessed dozens of stabbings and fights. It was common to observe officers perched on the prison roof carrying loaded rifles. They would occasionally shoot warning shots in an effort to stop people from harming one another if a conflict erupted on the prison yard.

Last year a person incarcerated at MR was shot through the shoulder by an officer from the rooftop during an incident involving an assault on the yard.

Polk and I interacted for the first time while participating in a study group together which taught us the value of self-knowledge, self-determination, cultural competence, spirituality, and social justice. It also introduced us to the role that politics and civic engagement play in our lives.

One of our most important takeaways from the group early on was that universes of opportunities are born whenever people open their hearts and minds and become receptive to new ideas.

Graduating class of MDOC prisoners.

Polk was a reserved person who displayed a quiet calmness. He was eager to learn, always attentive in our classes, and completed all assigned classwork. During the year we spent at MR together I had the opportunity to witness significant growth in him in just a short period of time.

Outside of class Polk and I would walk and talk on the yard about a variety of subjects. We talked about life in general, sports, music, where we were from, and things occurring inside the prison. He became one of many younger brothers and friends I would come to mentor over the years.

Over time I also came to discover that like me Polk, too, was sentenced to die in prison when he was a juvenile.

I left MR for the final time in 1995 and wouldn’t see Polk again for another 26 years. Though we were housed at separate prisons during that time, I monitored the trajectory of his growth and progress by talking to mutual friends who shared space with him at different prisons over the years.

We also occasionally wrote letters to each other before the practice of allowing people incarcerated in Michigan prisons to correspond with one another ended in 2009.

Polk continued to ameliorate his life despite living in a gray wasteland teeming with social toxins which devalues life and progression and is designed to extinguish the human spirit.

He demonstrated that we are all a work in progress. “[P]eople do not exist in an eternal moment … but are constantly changing their minds, projecting new actions into the world, learning and growing. We cannot reduce them to one moment only, to one crime or one good deed.” (Linda Ross Meyer, “Forgiveness and Public Trust,” 27 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1515, 1539 (2000)).

Research shows that sustained social isolation and living in an environment comprised of pathological and nihilistic elements can induce a diminution of meaning and self-worth.

Prisons are places where failure and degradation reign. I had seen the lives of incarcerated people ravaged far too many times, particularly the lives of young people, struggling to navigate the minefield of moral decay pervasive behind prison walls.

I was very cognizant that at any point despair or the misguided actions of others could send Polk in a downward spiral of self-destruction if he didn’t cultivate resiliency factors and remain self-disciplined.

Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, each 14 at the times of their crimes in Arkansas and Alabama, were the defendants in historic Jackson v. Arkansas/ Miller v. Alabama ruling in 2012.

When we reconnected again in 2019, Polk and I walked together on a prison yard much different than the one we walked on decades earlier. The prison we are at now houses many older people, including the largest population of people serving life sentences in Michigan.

Polk and I caught up about events that had transpired in our lives during the past nearly three decades, including the delays we have both experienced waiting to be resentenced years after the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama.

The Miller v. Alabama case banned mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders. At the time of the ruling 2,500 people were impacted.

Trial courts were ordered to review each juvenile lifer case to determine whether their case reflected transient immaturity or they are the rare juvenile lifer who is irreparably corrupt and rehabilitation is impossible.

Four years later the U.S. Supreme Court in Montgomery v. Louisiana made clear how extraordinarily uncommon LWOP sentences should become by emphasizing six separate times throughout the opinion that the sentence is only constitutional for the “rare” juvenile.

Henry Montgomery, 17, booked into jail in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, accused of killing deputy sheriff in 1963.

The Court also mentioned eight times in the Montgomery ruling that LWOP is barred for all juvenile defendants except for those who have committed homicide, whose crimes reflect “permanent incorrigibility” and “irreparable corruption,” and for whom “rehabilitation is impossible.”

It added, “[Juvenile lifers] must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”

In short, juvenile offenders who demonstrate the capacity for change and rehabilitation must receive new sentences that allow release consideration at some point in the future.

In speaking to Polk again in 2019, I observed firsthand he had continued evolving into a thoughtful, compassionate, and empathetic man. He was still making productive use of his time and using his choice architecture to effectuate transformational change.

Polk refused to allow himself to be defined by his crime or remain trapped in the past. He was now personifying the wisdom of Dr. Ashley E. Lucas, Professor, University of Michigan, who wrote in her illuminating book, “Prison Theatre and the Global Crisis of Incarceration” 145-146 (Methuen Drama: 2020):

“Human beings cannot grow or improve when they are tethered permanently and irrevocably to the past, when things that cannot be changed become the sum total of a person’s existence and their potential to be anything else in the future.”

I would often find Polk sitting alone on a picnic table or bench on the prison yard during afternoons watching cars drive. It was typical of him: still that reticent person I remembered many years earlier who found tranquility in his inner world.

During one of our conversations, Polk updated me about waiting to return to court to have his case evaluated for resentencing consideration based on the Miller v. Alabama ruling.

We had both experienced a series of delays because prosecutors in our counties were seeking LWOP sentences against us again rather than allowing us to receive new sentences that provide release consideration at some point in the future by the Parole Board.

The victim’s wife, son, and daughter in Polk’s case also understandably continued to oppose his release as they had since his arrest. The son and daughter were ages seven and five when the crime occurred.

After Polk’s 1993 trial the victim’s wife found purpose in her pain by becoming a nationally recognized champion for crime victim rights. She transformed her mourning into mission by initiating a statewide citizen petition for juvenile law reforms.

Pres. Bill Clinton signs 1994 Crime Bill. He says now he regrets doing so due to its escalation of mass incarceration.

She also used her voice to promote enactment of truth in sentencing laws ensuring that offenders serve their entire minimum sentence before being considered for release.

The year following the murder of her husband she was present at the White House for the signing of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (the 1994 Crime Bill). The historic bill — comprised of 33 titles — was designed to reduce violent crime and increase punishment against perpetrators of violent crimes.

Signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the Crime Bill was and remains the single largest “sweeping piece of federal criminal justice legislation in U.S. history that touched nearly every function or initiative of the criminal justice system.” (Richard Rosenfeld, “The 1994 Crime Bill: Legacy and Lessons — Overview and Reflections,” 32 Fed. Sent. R. 147 (2020)).

7th Circuit of Michigan Judge Elizabeth A. Kelly

On October 8, 2020, Polk received a court hearing for a judge to consider whether his crime reflected transient immaturity, or he was the rare, irreparably corrupt juvenile offender who can never be rehabilitated. The hearing was presided over by Genesee County Trial Court Judge Elizabeth A. Kelly.

Judge Kelly heard testimony provided by expert witnesses on Polk’s behalf and considered a wealth of evidence of his change and rehabilitation. She subsequently issued a ruling February 1, 2021 dismissing the prosecutor’s motion seeking a LWOP sentence against him.

Her decision reflected the overwhelming majority of judges who have declared the extreme sentence of LWOP unconstitutional in 94% of juvenile lifer cases being evaluated for resentencing across the state.

Two months later Judge Kelly resentenced Polk on April 13, 2021 to two concurrent sentences of 28 to 60 years for both the homicide and conspiracy to commit armed robbery charges. He was supposed to be resentenced a month earlier but was delayed due to a scheduling conflict.

SECOND CHANCE: Victims joined families and supporters of juvenile lifers, to lobby the Michigan legislature in 2006 to end JLWOP. It wasn’t until the USSC outlawed it in 2012 and 2016 that they succeeded. Photo: Diane Bukowski

At the conclusion of his resentencing hearing, the prosecutor asked the judge if the victim’s family could speak to Polk off the record. After receiving permission from the judge, the widow, son, and daughter of the victim in his case each spoke to Polk.

Rather than unleashing a salvo of contemptuous words against Polk, the family forgave him and wished him well with his life. They also conveyed that their family member who died was a good man and asked Polk to honor him by living the remainder of his life like their family member would have.

At court hearing, father forgives man who killed his son in Virginia/Photo: Lexington Herald Leader

The son told Polk if not for the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing rules being in place he would have given him a hug.

The family demonstrated the embodiment of grace and compassion through their magnanimity and benevolence of their mercy. They were determined not to allow the resentencing hearing to become one more event added to the gallery of their grief.

It was a profoundly powerful and deeply moving moment, particularly in light of their previous seemingly implacable position that Polk remain behind bars until his life expired, and advocating for passage of legislation to ensure that that fate materialized.

The interface occurred between the victim’s family and Polk as he stood facing them handcuffed inside of the jury box. Only a short wooden wall separated them from one another.

Polk told me, “The family refused to be imprisoned by anger and hatred anymore that day. They taught me a powerful lesson about forgiveness and humanity that I’ll never forget. We cried together in the courtroom and I cried again this morning. It’s been overwhelming.”

In addition to the aforementioned details he shared with me, we discussed how decades-old trauma is reactivated during court hearings, and the heartbreak of observing the acute affliction that victim family members in our cases have endured due to the horror of violence.

Naji Abi-Hashem

“Sudden losses, unexpected traumas, and intrusive tragedies … are difficult to handle and process. They can be … destabilizing and devastating to the whole person, family, organization, or community.” (Naji Abi-Hashem, “Grief, Bereavement, and Traumatic Stress,” 32 Issues L. & Med. 245 (2017)).

Trauma and its baneful aftermath often shakes human life to its core. Crime survivors are left reeling in agony whenever they or someone they love suffers harm. Pernicious acts against them are indelibly seared into their souls. They “mark their memories forever and chang[e] their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways.” (Jeffrey C. Alexander, “The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology” 3 (2003)).

No person should ever have their life desecrated, violently disrupted, or cut short because of another person’s virulent behavior. Every life is sacred and deserves to be respected and valued.

Polk went on to share his plans to live with the grandmother who raised him in the same childhood bedroom he slept in prior to his 1993 arrest. His grandmother has preserved the bedroom for him for nearly three decades.

She found it too painful to discard any of its contents all these years. They were tangible memories she clung to that helped her cope with his absence and allowed her to maintain a connection to him.

When asked about his post-release plans, Polk remarked that he wants to work full-time and further his education. He also wants to live a life of service to others by participating in activities to help improve his community in Flint.

Flint mother and children at meeting on poisoned water lawsuit settlement.

According to Polk, “More than anything I want to help my grandmother who stood by and supported me all these years. I want to be there to help her do things like throw out her trash, help her clean the house, and buy her gifts on Mother’s Day.”

He added, “I want to do the small things many people take for granted. I’m not thinking about big things. I’ll be grateful to just live a simple life and celebrate my freedom every day.”

Since he has served 27 years in prison Polk will become eligible for parole consideration within the next year.

In his 2017 Harvard Law Review article titled, “The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform,” President Barack Obama wrote:

“How we treat those who have made mistakes speaks to who we are as a society and is a statement about our values — about our dedication to fairness, equality, and justice, and about how to protect our families and communities from harm, heal after loss and trauma, and lift back up those among us who have earned a chance at redemption.”

When he is eventually paroled Polk will experience freedom for the first time in his adult life. He looks forward to that day and is committed to living a meaningful and productive life of purpose.

Even if his fresh start begins with cleaning out his childhood bedroom and replacing his belongings with items he will now need as an adult mid-way into his 40s.

Efren Paredes was a 15-year old honor student in Berrien County when he was falsely charged with first degree murder in the death of a store proprietor. He still awaits re-sentencing under U.S. Supreme Court rulings barring mandatory JLWOP sentences for children.

(Efrén Paredes, Jr. is a blogger, thought leader, social justice changemaker, and Michigan juvenile lifer who has been incarcerated 32 years. You can find links to his writings, TV news/radio/podcast interviews, and activism by visiting http://fb.com/Free.Efren.)

Related:

What the SCOTUS decision in juvenile lifer case means for Michigan | Michigan Radio

DOES KYM WORTHY WANT 54 MICH. JUVENILE LIFERS TO DIE IN PRISON, VIOLATING U.S. SUPREME COURT ORDERS? | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper. VOD’s editors and reporters, most of whom live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated, are not paid for their work. Ongoing costs include quarterly web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, and internet fees, as well as office supplies, gas, etc.

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INT’L COMMISSION ON RACIST POLICE VIOLENCE IN U.S. ISSUES REPORT; CALLS FOR WORLD COURT INTERVENTION

International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence on People of African Descent in the United States:

“The purpose of the Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racial Police Violence is to examine whether widespread and systematic racist violence in policing against people of African descent in the United States of America (U.S.) has resulted in a continuing pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Commissioners find a pattern and practice of racist police violence in the U.S. in the context of a history of oppression dating back to the extermination of First Nations peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the militarization of U.S. society, and the continued perpetuation of structural racism.”

Commissioners call on Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague to Open Investigation Aimed at Bringing Charges

PROTESTERS IN LIVERPOOL, BRITAIN JUNE 2, 2020

EXCERPT: Police killings of Black Americans amount to crimes against humanity, international inquiry finds | US policing | The Guardian

Ed Pilkington  Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

April 27, 2021

George Floyd (l)  murdered by Derek Chauvin(r)       May 25, 2020

NEW YORK– A week after the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in George Floyd’s death, the unabated epidemic of police killings of Black men and women in the US has now attracted scorching international attention.

In a devastating report running to 188 pages, human rights experts from 11 countries hold the US accountable for what they say is a long history of violations of international law that rise in some cases to the level of crimes against humanity.

They point to what they call “police murders” as well as “severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution and other inhuman acts” as systematic attacks on the Black community that meet the definition of such crimes.

They also call on the prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague to open an immediate investigation with a view to prosecutions.

Photo: Mothers Against Police Brutality

“This finding of crimes against humanity was not given lightly, we included it with a very clear mind,” Hina Jilani, one of the 12 commissioners who led the inquiry, told the Guardian. “We examined all the facts and concluded that that there are situations in the US that beg the urgent scrutiny of the ICC.”

Hina Jilani

The report arose directly out of the foment that swept the country in the wake of Floyd’s murder last May. As protests erupted across the nation and around the world, the families of Floyd and other Black people killed by police in recent years petitioned the UN to set up an official inquiry into the shootings.

Under intense pressure from the Trump administration, however, the UN shrank from being drawn into the debate. A coalition of three leading lawyers’ organizations – the US-based National Conference of Black Lawyers and the National Lawyers Guild, and the worldwide International Association of Democratic Lawyers – stepped into the breach, joining forces to stage their own independent inquiry into US police brutality.

A panel of commissioners from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean was assembled to look into police violence, and the structural racism that underpins it. Virtual public hearings were held earlier this year, with testimony from the families of the victims of some of the most notorious police killings in recent times.

Protest against police murder of Daunte Wright in suburban Minneapolis April 16, 2021

Jilani told the Guardian that as a native of Pakistan who has participated in many UN investigations probing human rights abuses, she is familiar with accounts of extreme brutality by law enforcement. “But even I found the testimonies we heard in the US extremely distressing. I was taken aback that this country, which claims to be a global champion of human rights, itself fails to comply with international law.”

Aiyana Jones’ family members protest outside courthouse Mar. 8, 2013. 

The report gives its own searing figures. Unarmed Black people are almost four times as likely as their white equivalents to be killed by police.

Since 2005, about 15,000 people have been killed by law enforcement – a rate of about 1,000 every year. During that same period only 104 police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter in relation to the incidents, and of those only 35 were convicted of any crime.

The commissioners make a number of demands on the US government and Congress. They want to see demilitarization of local police forces, and prohibition of no-knock warrants that allow officers to raid the homes of Black people like Breonna Taylor’s without warning and often without cause.

They also want an end to qualified immunity through which police officers avoid civil lawsuits. The commissioners say the loophole “amounts to condoning brutal police violence”.

But the most contentious demand is likely to be the call on the ICC prosecutor to launch an investigation against the US for crimes against humanity.

ABOVE: FULL PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE INT’L COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYSTEMIC RACIST POLICE VIOLENCE IN UNITED STATES

International Commission of Inquiry | On Systemic Racist Police Violence against People of African Descent in the United States (inquirycommission.org)

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DID CHIEF CRAIG, PROS. WORTHY ORCHESTRATE TERROR CAMPAIGN IN DETROIT PRIOR TO CHAUVIN VERDICT?

As Detroit awaited verdict in George Floyd murder trial, DPD killed 2 men with alleged mental health issues April 19 and April 20

DPD Chief James Craig conducted ‘scare’ campaign anticipating violent protests, attacked  U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters, Rashida Tlaib for their comments 

Mainstream media prominently featured DPD allies Min. Malik Shabazz and Cease Fire in its coverage leading up to the verdict

Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy paved the way for Craig’s scare tactics, announcing no charges would be filed in Hakim Littleton’s death July 10, 2020, which family still says was self-defense

By Diane Bukowski

April 23, 2021  Updated April 30, 2021 

Screenshot of Final Call front cover dated 4/27/21

DETROIT—In the weeks leading up to the three guilty verdicts rendered against Derek Chauvin April 20 for the gruesome torture/murder of  George Floyd last year in Minneapolis,  Detroit law enforcement leaders evidently conspired with mainstream news outlets to create an atmosphere of police terror here.

The resulting fear on both sides may have led to the police killings of two still-unnamed Detroit men with mental health issues, on April 19 and April 20, the day of the verdict.

Police said the first man died, allegedly after shooting at officers, after a chase they said wound from the city’s far west side through downtown Detroit, ending on the city’s far east side.  Police claimed the second man,  “violent male-mental,” stabbed himself and an officer, who was then shot by “friendly fire” from another officer in the chaos. A police “strike force” evidently without qualified mental health personnel. was reportedly involved.

U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters, Rashida Tlaib and DPD Chief James Craig

Detroit Police Chief James Craig mounted a constant scare campaign in the media prior to the Minneapolis verdict, warning of violent protests in the city’s streets whether or not Chauvin was found guilty. He also launched attacks on U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (Detroit) and Maxine Waters (Los Angeles) for comments on the police murder of Daunte Wright in suburban Minneapolis.

Craig’s attacks were aired on Fox News, previously an ardent supporter of former Pres. Donald Trump and a frequent host of Craig’s.  Craig echoed Chauvin’s defense attorney’s claims that comments by the two progressive women leaders’ were confrontational and anti-police. But Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill denied his motion for a mistrial, and then the Chauvin jury rendered three resounding verdicts of “GUILTY.”

Supporting Craig and others, Detroit Min. Malik Shabazz alleged that protesters would likely chant, “Burn, Baby, Burn,” while the group Cease Fire Youth Initiative, Inc. claimed that Detroit Will Breathe protesters were nothing but “agitators.” Shabazz is a long-time supporter of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who strongly supports Craig’s policies, and a co-founder of the Detroit 300,  a paramilitary-style organization with ties to the Detroit Police Department. Neither organization publishes financial reports that show who funds their work. The Detroit 300  has been sued for assaulting civilians on DPD’s behalf. See: Family suing community activist group, Detroit police (clickondetroit.com)

Detroit cops pepper spray protester held on ground Aug. 22, 2020 Photo: Adam J. Dewey

However, during the months of “Detroit Will Breathe’ marches after George Floyd’s murder May 25 last year, the only violence evident was that inflicted on protesters by heavily armed squads of police with armored vehicles, who shot rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray and mercilessly beat marchers without apparent provocation.  

“We are watching the next generation of civil rights leaders being demonized by those in positions of power and the media,” Tlaib said last year. “You can’t deny the facts. Peaceful protesters were violently assaulted, run over and tear gassed by our police department during one of the largest social justice mobilizations of our lifetime. These attacks were carried out while many of the leaders and representatives of [Detroit] applauded their actions or stood by in silent approval.”

U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Michelson most recently dismissed a counterclaim filed by the City of Detroit that the protests were a “civil conspiracy,” after earlier ruling that  Detroit Will Breathe’s original lawsuit claims accusing Detroit police of unprovoked brutality had merit. See: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Detroit_Will_Breathe_et_al_v_Detroit_City_of_et_al__miedce-20-12363__0061.0.pdf

WHERE ARE THE NAMES OF THE TEN OFFICERS SHOWN ON POLICE VIDEOS, THE NAMES OF THE WITNESSES AND THEIR COMPLETE WRITTEN STATEMENTS REGARDING THE KILLING OF HAKIM LITTLETON? WHERE ARE THE ORIGINAL INDIVIDUAL BODYCAM AND DASHCAM VIDEOES OF THIS EVENT? HAVE THE COPS KILLED OTHERS IN THE PAST, AND WILL THEY GO ON TO KILL MORE?

Three weeks earlier, apparently out of the blue, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced April 7 that police would not be charged for last year’s killing of Hakim Littleton, 20 on July 10, 2020. His death led to large protests and a call by the Detroit Coalition for Police Accountability and Transparency (DCPAT) for an independent inquiry. No such official inquiry has taken place, although DCPAT held its own people’s forum Oct 25, 2020. (See video at end of story.)

“After a thorough investigation of the case by the Michigan State Police (MSP), the Detroit Police Department (DPD) Homicide Task Force, and an independent review of the case by the WCPO Public Integrity Unit (PIU), it has been determined that no charges will be issued against the three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Hakim Littleton,” Worthy said. “The police were acting in lawful self-defense and defense of others.”

The WCPO Public Integrity Unit operates directly under Worthy’s supervision, calling into question how “independent” its review was. Worthy prefaced her statement by claiming that she has always held police officers accountable for killings, since her role as assistant prosecutor against Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn for the death of Malice Green in 1992. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DETROITERS-KILLED-BY-POLICE-SINCE-1992-1-merged.pdf.

 

Since she took office in 2004, Worthy has not brought a single murder charge against a Detroit police officer in the deaths of dozens of civilians. This reporter covered the cases of every individual in the photo above for the Michigan Citizen and for VOD and their families’ pleas that Worthy bring charges, which she ignored.

Aiyana Jones, 7 (l) was shot to death by DPD officer Joseph Weekley (r) May 16, 2010.

Even After Aiyana Jones, 7, was killed in a police military-style raid on her home in 2010, it was Third Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny who brought involuntary manslaughter charges against Joseph Weekley. Weekley shot the child at close range in the head with a submachine gun immediately after a flash bang was thrown into the home and the door was broken down.

Numerous police officers and a firearms expert testified that Weekley could not have accidentally discharged his weapon, but he walked after Judge Cynthia Gray-Hathaway declared two mistrials. Aiyana’s father is still in prison for the killing of Je’Rean Blake two days earlier. His conviction was based primarily on the testimony of two jail-house snitches.

Littleton’s family and DCPAT have called for the release of the names of the officers involved in Littleton’s killing last July 20, unedited versions of DPD bodycam videos of the event, and other information. Worthy released neither the names of 10 officers seen on the videos or of witnesses, nor complete statements by them. Likewise, DPD has not released to date the names of three other men killed by DPD in the two weeks after Littleton’s death. Legal experts say this violates the constitutional rights of victims and families, as well as the public, which funds law enforcement agencies at all levels.

Photo from WCPO power point  shows Hakim Littleton crouching to his left, where Gang Squad cops hid behind bushes ready to fire, not visible from the street. 

With no direct evidence other than blurry video screenshots, Worthy claimed Littleton kept firing his gun after he was shot several times and fell to the ground, where he was straddled by one of the officers.

The DCPAT earlier published a video analysis of the police bodycam videos provided by Craig after Littleton’s death, which centered on the claim that police kicked away his gun before he was shot in the head at close range. The new screenshots show a vague mark next to Littleton’s hand that might or might not have been a gun, or might or might not have been doctored, just before an officer shot him in the head at point-blank range.

In addition to the Facebook video of the press conference, the WCPO provided a power point presentation. Among other exhibits, it includes a photo (left) selected from police bodycam videos. It allegedly shows Littleton pulling out his gun, but it also shows him bending to his left and observing other well-armed cops hidden behind the bushes, not seen in views from the street. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/WCPO-Hakim-Littleton-Presentation2-PDF.pdf

Littleton’s family has said all along he drew his gun in self-defense, fearing for his life, as millions of other people of color and poor people have feared for their lives over hundreds of years.

Worthy claimed to have no ready knowledge regarding why a large heavily-armed squad of police, many with “Gang Intel” T-shirts, were present at the scene to arrest Darnell Wayne Sylvester, 20, shown in the video on the ground in a white T-shirt. DPD Chief Craig had claimed police were canvassing neighborhoods related to the shooting, allegedly gang-related, of several people at a neighborhood block party two weeks previously. Littleton’s girl friend told WWJ-Radio in the broadcast above that he was with her and was not in the location of the block party.

North Dakota U.S. Federal District Court

Sylvester was detained by police on on a federal arrest warrant issued in the District of North Dakota by the Bismarck Police Department, according to federal and state court records.

The Bismarck PD claimed he had been charged federally with conspiracy to distribute drugs, but their records show he was released from North Dakota on a $500 bond for the charge of “giving false info to police.” He had a hearing in federal court in Detroit after his arrest July 10, 2020, and was released from there on a $5,000 “unsecured” bond with the understanding that he would return to North Dakota for further proceedings. One hearing scheduled there was postponed, and no further information has been available from court records.

On April 6, the day before Worthy’s press conference, Fox2News Detroit aired an interview with Littleton’s brother (below):

The DC-PAT reacted on its website, “Since the July 10 killing, Detroiters have been given three conflicting official stories of the incident: Chief Craig presented one set of ‘facts’ at his press conference immediately following the killing on July 10.  On August 5, in statements to the Detroit News, Chief Craig presented a different set of ‘facts.’   Now Prosecutor Worthy has presented a third, different set of  ‘facts.’  There are multiple contradictions and inconsistencies among these three sets of ‘facts’. . .”

Craig’s first version was presented July 10, 2020 below:

It led to an analysis published by the DCPAT which pointed to the “kill shot” aimed at Littleton’s head, the 10th bullet fired in the incident. The DCPAT questioned whether it was necessary to “execute” Littleton after he had been shot three times and collapsed on the ground. Seconds after his collapse, an officer is seen running up to Littleton on the ground and aimed his gun directly at the back of Littleton’s head, a shot confirmed by the official autopsy report. Click on Watch on You Tube below.

But the mainstream media as a whole acquiesced to Worthy’s updated version of events, which conflicted with two earlier versions issued by Craig and Worthy. The media abandoned any challenge or further investigation. It played the same role in Detroit during the weeks leading up to the Minneapolis jury’s 3 X GUILTY verdict in the death of George Floyd.

Below: Comments by Trey Songz: what more can be said? Website at: Trey Songz Official Website.

Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountabilty (detroitcpta.org)

(20+) Detroit Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability | Facebook

See Channel 7’s coverage of DCPAT’s press conference on the Hakim Littleton killing in 2020, and video of Oct. 25, 2020 Hakim Littleton People’s Tribunal.


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Related:

HAKIM LITTLETON’S FAMILY, DWB, ATTYS., ACTIVISTS, VOD CONDEMN YOUTH’S EXECUTION BY DETROIT POLICE | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

DPD CHIEF CRAIG CONTINUES ATTACK ON HAKIM LITTLETON, KILLED BY POLICE 7/20/20, USING FALSE CLAIMS | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

WOULD DETROIT POLICE HAVE KILLED HAKIM LITTLETON IF HE WAS WHITE? | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

TERRORISM IN DETROIT—BING, LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE DETROIT 300 | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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“PHILLY D.A. EPISODE I:” LARRY KRASNER TAKES OFFICE IN LANDSLIDE, FIRES 31 A.D.A.’S, BEGINS ENDING CASH BAIL

Editor: The first episode of “Philly D.A.” on PBSaired on April 20, 2021,  was published on YouTube, so VOD is providing it here for our readers to watch. There are eight episodes, to be aired on coming Tuesdays at 9 PM EST. Please be sure to watch. This is a stunning documentary which validates years of stories in Voice of Detroit regarding wrongful convictions in Michigan.

VOD has called for charges and disciplinary action against police and assistant prosecutors responsible for such convictions, with no action to date. This may be the ONLY way to stop such horrific miscarriages of justice, which have resulted in THOUSANDS of people still serving up to 50 years in prison, estimated at up to 30 percent and more of MDOC’s population.

Philly D.A.

WRONGFULLY CONVICTED IN MICHIGAN: (L to R) Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kens

See links to VOD’s most recent stories on wrongful convictions in Wayne, Oakland and  St. Clair Counties below. The men in the photos above are still incarcerated in the MDOC, EXCEPT for Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy (see photos below), released on bond April 20, pending the Wayne County Prosecutor’s decision on appeal.

Thelonious Searcy with his attorney Michael Dezsi (l) and (r) with legal advisor Travis Herndon, who worked with Searcy on the 2016 pro se motion which led to his release on bond April 20, 2021.

VOD broke Searcy’s story and followed up with numerous articles beginning in 2017. Admitted hitman Vincent Smothers testified during a 2018 evidentiary hearing that HE committed the murder for which Shawn served 17 years in the MDOC. Other testimony at that hearing and in a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling exposed the deceitful roles trial judge Timothy Kenny and AP Patrick Muscat played in the frame-up. 

VOD also covered the stories of many of those released after intervention by the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit. VOD stories on those released and those still incarcerated include the names of police and prosecutors responsible for the wrongful convictions, located after VOD’s research.

Related stories:

WRONGFULLY CONVICTED AND FREED AFTER 26 YRS, LARRY SMITH LISTS MANY MORE WHO SHOULD FOLLOW | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

DID WAYNE CO. APA MUSCAT SUBORN PERJURY IN CASE OF DETROITER KENNETH NIXON? HAS HE DONE IT BEFORE? | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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PLEASE DONATE TO VOD TO KEEP OUR STORIES COMING!

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MURDER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT RUINED DEREK CHAUVIN SHOW TRIAL — BLACK AGENDA REPORT

Protesters advance on Brookyn Center Police Department April 13 after white cop killed young father Daunte Wright. 

See New York Times article, “Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount” dated April 17, 2021. 

“Since testimony began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day.”

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Throughout-Trial-Over-George-Floyd’s-Death-Killings-by-Police-Mount-The-New-York-Times.pdf

 ​​​​​​​AJAMU BARAKA, BAR EDITOR AND COLUMNIST

15 Apr 2021

Daunte Wright/family photo

The Black-murder-by-cop next door to Minneapolis shows the world the dehumanization that is built into the white supremacist DNA of settler-colonialism will continue to produce crimes against our collective humanity.

“The murder of George Floyd was no more an aberration in U.S. society than the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was.”

The fix was in. The U.S. state was determined to demonstrate to the world that its system was able to render “justice” to its captive African/Black population.

So, unlike in the handful of cases where charges were brought against police officers for killing a Black or Brown person, the prosecutors this time did not pretend to follow the demands of the ill-informed public to bring charges of first degree or second-degree murder that would set a bar for conviction so high, it could not be met. That is a favorite strategy of prosecutors when conviction is not what they are looking for.

Former NBA star Stephen Jackson grew up with George Floyd in Houston, TX. and maintained a close friendship with him throughout their lives.

The prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin case did the opposite. They stacked the charges in a way that would make it impossible to escape a conviction. And everyone fell in line because the stakes were so high. Could the Shining City on the Hill, whose leadership was now associated with the “decent” Democrats, render justice for the killer of George Floyd? The answer to that question was going to be an emphatic yes. The press committed to gavel-to-gavel coverage and everything was ready for one of the greatest show trials of U.S. history.

But the intractable, racist nature of the relationship between Black people and the U.S. settler-colonial state reared its ugly head again and everything went off script right in the middle of the international production. That is because another young Black male was gunned down, ironically in the same metropolitan area where Floyd’s life was snatched from him.

“Everything went off script right in the middle of the international production.”

Everything was now confused again. What would justice mean for Floyd and any other Black individual murdered or assaulted by agents of the state even if Chauvin is convicted? Would the call for “justice” now just mean a demand for a trial since it is clear cases of Black murder will continue, as they have since the inception of this nation? Is that not what made the U.S. “exceptional” as the first republic ever established on the basis of race in human history?

The ruling class response to Covid-19 demonstrated how cheap life is in the United States, but the lives of Black people are even lower on the scale of human value. Yet, the charade continues. U.S. authorities gun down Black people in the United States, while its armies kill Black and other colonized peoples and nations around the world in the name of advancing democracy.

Extreme, systematic, murderous violence has always been at the heart of the white supremacist settler project.

Everyone knows really that the murder of George Floyd was no more an aberration in U.S. society than the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was. Extreme, systematic, murderous violence has always been at the heart of the white supremacist settler project. The Chauvin show trial was just supposed to help us to forget that for a moment.

It did not matter that no one was held accountable for the murder of Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, or the now countless murders where local prosecutors failed to bring charges and the government under the Obama and Trump administrations made political decisions not to launch federal investigations.

This case was different. It could not be ignored or explained away. The world had seen the gruesome snuff film of George Floyd that evoked global revulsion. (Above–click on “Watch on YouTube.” An inflection point had been reached in which the U.S. brand was potentially damaged beyond repair—so a sacrifice was required.

With the killing of Daunte Wright, a mistrial may not be the result and Chauvin will probably be convicted. That conviction, however, will not have the effect that the plan had originally imagined. Out of the confusion around what is to be demanded when the killings continue, is the slow awakening to the unavoidable reality that unless African/Black people are able to self-govern and exercise authentic collective self-determination, the degradation and dehumanization that is built into the white supremacist DNA of settler-colonialism will continue to produce Breonna Taylors, Eric Garners, mass incarceration, and crimes against our collective humanity.

And how do we shift that power? Malcolm X gave us a direction from the radical Black human rights tradition. He said you must be ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people.

And what is that price?

“The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.”  That outcome cannot be scripted by Hollywood or the state propagandists.

Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace

Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC). He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch.

COMMENTS? Please join the conversation on Black Agenda Report’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/blackagendareport Or, you can comment by emailing us at comments@blackagendareport.com 

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WRONGFULLY CONVICTED AND FREED AFTER 26 YRS, LARRY SMITH LISTS MANY MORE WHO SHOULD FOLLOW

Interviewed on his release from prison Feb. 4, 2021, Larry Smith gave full statement (at top) listing many others still locked up who should be freed

Larry Smith, Ramon Ward and Bernard Howard were featured in an investigative interview (bottom), by Channel 7’s Ross Jones April 14, 2021

Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor

Many who viewed Channel 7’s broadcast April 14 may not have seen Larry Smith’s complete statement on his release, featured in a Facebook live video by Kimberly Craig. VOD downloaded a clip from that video as shown at top.

One of the people Smith listed is Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor, who is incarcerated at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, where Smith and Ferrell formed a firm friendship.  Ferrell is currently facing unconstitutional limitations of his access to communication outlets including JPay.

Many recent JPay’s sent to him from various journalists have been rejected “due to content.” VOD referred his case to the Michigan ACLU, which earlier won a lawsuit for Sharee Miller, a woman at MDOC’s Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility, as included in Ferrell’s last story on Voice of Detroit. See:

MDOC EXPERIENCING RISE IN SUICIDES AT TREATMENT PROGRAM; ARE CORRECTIONS OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE? | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

VOD has covered the wrongful convictions of (l to r) Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kensu

Also read VOD’s stories on the wrongful convictions of the individuals shown above, which have exposed police officers and assistant prosecutors by name, responsible for many other wrongful convictions: Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kensu.

Judge Thomas Hathaway at Searcy appeal bond hearing March 1, 2021.

Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy should have been released to home confinement on bond April 5, pending any appeals of a victorious Feb. 11 order by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hathaway ordered the bond March 1,  but his release has been inexplicably delayed.

Ewing and Searcy are awaiting a court hearing May 19, 2021 at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Darnella Williams-Clayborne. The hearing will determine whether they will be retried after a victorious COA ruling which the Michigan Supreme Court declined to upset on appeal by the prosecutor. Their original date of April 13 was postponed due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

See stories related to still-incarcerated individuals:

DARRELL EWING, DERRICO SEARCY IN DETROIT COURT APRIL 13, NEW TRIAL ORDERED BY 8 STATE, U.S. JUDGES | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

DID WAYNE CO. APA MUSCAT SUBORN PERJURY IN CASE OF DETROITER KENNETH NIXON? HAS HE DONE IT BEFORE? | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

THELONIOUS ‘SHAWN’ SEARCY WINS NEW TRIAL; MICH. APPEALS COURT CITES HITMAN’S CONFESSION, BALLISTICS | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

MICHIGAN LIFER RICKY RIMMER-BEY: CONVICTED DRUG DEALER COP JAMES HARRIS FRAMED ME FOR MURDER | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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DARRELL EWING, DERRICO SEARCY IN DETROIT COURT APRIL 13, NEW TRIAL ORDERED BY 8 STATE, U.S. JUDGES

Attorney Lillian Diallo (center) celebrates with families of Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy after the two won a new trial in front of Judge Michael Hathaway Oct. 24, 2019.  Darrell Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson is at top, center.  Judge Darnella Williams-Claybourne appointed Diallo to represent Searcy beginning April 13, 2021. VOD photo

UPDATE: HEARING POSTPONED to MAY 19 @9AM

Atty: Court says that’s the next available date due to necessity for COVID-19 quarantine.

Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy finally scheduled to appear for new trial Tues. April 13, @1:30pm, after orders by 8 state, federal judges in 4 courts

Families hope prosecutor will move to dismiss charges due to trial jury misconduct, and because another man confessed to murder of J.B. Watson

During trial, AP Kam Towns would not take confession affidavit

Hearing in front of  WCCC Judge Darnella Williams-Clayborne, appointed to bench last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, later elected

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Click on “view streaming” at time of hearing Wed. May 19, 2021 9 A.M.

Hon. Darnella D. Williams-Claybourne JOIN MEETING VIEW STREAMING JudgeWilliams-Claybourne-Court@3rdcc.org

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By Diane Bukowski   

April 10, 2021

Darrell Ewing (l), Derrico Searcy (r)

DETROIT–Eight judges in four courts have ordered a new trial for Detroiters Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy since their murder convictions in 2009, citing jury misconduct and a lack of “overwhelming” evidence of guilt.

In the wake of a Michigan Supreme Court ruling March 2 denying the prosecution’s last appeal, they will finally appear by Zoom in front of Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Darnella Williams-Claybourne Tues. April 13 at 1:30 P.M.

If Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy does not move to dismiss the charges, a date for the new trial should be set.

At trial, prosecutors  ignored Tyree Washingon’s confession in a sworn affidavit to the 2009 drive-by murder of J.B. Watson, for which Ewing and Searcy were convicted. In the affidavit given to AP Kam Towns, Washington said he retaliated because Watson earlier shot at his child and her mother. A documented FBI confidential informant also testified on the stand that his cousin and Washington were responsible for Watson’s murder.

Tyree Washington (l), AP Kam Towns (r)

“At the time I took responsibility for Mr. Watson’s murder, I signed a sworn affidavit and it was given to Kam Towns, the prosecutor handling Mr. Ewing’s case during Mr. Ewing’s trial,” Washington said in his affidavit. “My attorney delivered the affidavit to Ms. Towns and told her I wanted to testify. Ms. Towns’ response was that she already had the perpetrators she was looking for and did not need me to testify.”

The prosecutor’s theory of the case was that Washington had confessed due to a “gang hierarchy,” which was not actually testified to at trial. But several jury members picked up the ball, introducing research on urban gangs from the internet and social media into their deliberations to discount Washington’s confession.  U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood first ordered a new trial in 2017 because of that unlawful introduction of “extraneous information.”

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled  July 31, 2020, in the case of Robin Emanuel Hammock that witness affidavits like Washington’s must be submitted to the trier of fact, the jury,  not rejected because the life experiences of court officers differ from those of the affiant. http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/MSC-People-v-Hammock-7-31-2020.pdf

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh.

Justice Megan Cavanagh, supported by Justice Richard Bernstein, said that a witness account of the murders involved in the case should have been submitted at trial.

“And yet, it is true that people in prison run into past acquaintances, that some people serving long prison sentences spend long hours in the law library falling down legal rabbit holes, and that some of those people were selling marijuana at 2 a.m. when they were 13 years old,” Justice Cavanagh wrote. “These experiences are unlike my own, and though I cannot speak for him, they may also be unlike Justice MARKMAN’s. But maybe for exactly that reason the judicial function in this matter is not to pass on the credibility of [affiant] Carter’s story, but only to ask ‘whether a reasonable juror could find the testimony credible on retrial,’ Johnson, 502 Mich at 567 (emphasis altered).”

“My son is innocent,” Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson told VOD after Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway ordered a new trial Oct. 24, 2019. “He has lost over 10 years of his life, 10 years of his family’s life. This affects the whole family, my daughters, my sisters, everyone.”

The families of both men say they have agonized because the two contracted the coronavirus while in prison. Michigan prisons nationally have the highest COVID-19 infection rate, 76 in 100 as compared to 8 in 100 in the general population, according to an April 10, 2021 article in the New York Times.

From the New York Times, April 10, 2021

Twenty-four men serving time at Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF), where Ewing is serving a life without parole sentence, have died from the coronavirus, the highest number of deaths in individual Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) facilities. Searcy is serving his 40-60 year sentence at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (BCF). There, 90 new cases of the likely more contagious United Kingdom (UK) coronavirus variant were identified in February, half of the cases in Michigan’s entire population at the time. Searcy contracted that variant.

Judges on Darrell Ewing/Derrico Searcy case. Judge Wms.-Clayborne (top r) to hear case 4/13/21

After the Oct. 24, 2019 evidentiary hearing, ordered by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Denise Page Hood, Hathaway ruled that jury deliberations at the 2009 trial were contaminated by “extraneous information” about urban gangs from social media and the internet, introduced by jurors into deliberations.

The prosecution had posited that the murder resulted from a gang war, but no one testified to that effect at trial.

Judge Hathaway also said that evidence of guilt at the trial was not “overwhelming.” His ruling was strongly upheld by a state Court of Appeals panel October 13, 2020.

The COA panel said in part, “Juror [Kathleen] Byrnes testified that she was unsure whether Searcy and Ewing were guilty and that she was the holdout juror that caused the jury to report a deadlock. Byrnes found particularly troubling the testimony that Washington had confessed to the crime Ewing was accused of. According to Byrnes, another juror, Karen James, researched information about gangs and gang hierarchies on the Internet and reported her findings to Byrnes during deliberation.”

Former TV News reporter Scott Lewis interviewed Tyree Washington about the murder of J.B. Watson in 2009.

The cases of Ewing and Searcy have been featured on various national wrongful conviction websites, including:

Darrell Ewing | Actual Innocent Prisoners

Rico Searcy | Actual Innocent Prisoners

Episode 8: Darrell Ewing (unjustandunsolved.com)

Related documents:

Michigan Supreme Court ruling People v. Hammock 7/31/2020 http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/MSC-People-v-Hammock-7-31-2020.pdf” 

Michigan Court of Appeals ruling affirming order for new trial in Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy cases: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/2-Darrell-Ewing-COA-opinion-10-13-20.pdf

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood’s order for new trial:  http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Darrell-Ewing-habeas-corpus-grant-1.pdf

6th Circuit ruling on Michigan AG’s appeal of District Court ruling:  http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Ewing-6th-CC-2-5-19-compressed.pdf

Judge Denise Page Hood’s opinion on remand from 6th Circuit Court: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Opinion-on-remand-Ewing_v_Woods__miedce-15-10523__0016.0.pdf

Transcript of Judge Michael Hathaway’s order for a new trial: http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Darrell-Ewing-Derrico-Searcy-Remmer-Hearing-Transcripts.pdf

Related stories:

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/09/29/fighting-for-his-life-darrell-ewing-in-court-again-despite-3-orders-in-3-yrs-granting-a-new-trial/

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2020/07/12/free-darrell-ewing-two-judges-have-ordered-new-trials-in-innocence-case-kym-worthy-still-appeals/

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/10/27/darrell-ewing-derrico-searcy-win-new-trial-in-murder-case-after-nearly-two-decades/

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/09/17/ewing-searcy-hearing-on-jury-use-of-internet-research-on-gangs-in-2010-trial-to-continue-oct-4/

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/08/27/juror-in-2010-ewingsearcy-murder-trial-verdict-tainted-by-jurys-gang-related-internet-research/

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2019/02/14/sixth-circuit-orders-evidentiary-hearing-instead-of-new-trial-in-darrell-ewings-2010-murder-conviction/ 

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2017/11/27/fed-judge-strikes-down-darrell-ewing-conviction-due-to-jury-discussion-of-gang-social-media

“Incarcerated and Infected_ How the Virus Tore Through the U.S. Prison System” New York Times April 10, 2021 http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Incarcerated-and-Infected_-How-the-Virus-Tore-Through-the-U.S.-Prison-System-The-New-York-Times-pages-deleted-compressed.pdf

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