Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy will not withdraw recommendations that up to 54 Wayne Co. juvenile lifers get LWOP again, forcing costly hearings
(Above): Wayne County’s juvenile lifers left behind without re-sentencings; top to bottom, they range in age from 73 to 26 and in years served to date from 44 to 8 yrs.

March 23 UPDATE on case of Lonnell Haywood

(Photo 4th row from top, 3rd from left). Judge Noah Hood rejects renewed life without parole sentence for Wayne Co. juvenile lifer Lonnell Haywood March 19; re-sentencing to term of years set for April 12, 2021 at 2 pm.

On March 19, Wayne Co. 3rd Circuit Court Judge Noah Hood rejected the Wayne Co. Prosecutor’s request that  juvenile lifer Lonnell Haywood be re-sentenced to die in prison. Judge Hood said he would resentence Mr. Haywood to a term of years instead, on  April 12, 2021 at 2 p.m. Haywood, 40, has been in prison for 23 years since 1998, since the age of 17.

Haywood admittedly killed Robert Hill when he (Haywood) was just 16. According to testimony at the hearing, Hill had been a close friend of Haywood and his family. Hill and the mother of his son  even stayed with them for several months in Inkster. Judge Hood said evidence had been presented that the family situation was dysfunctional at the time, leading to several confrontations after Hill moved out.

Judge Hood noted that those advocating for a term of years for Haywood include former Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) director Patricia Caruso, Dr. Colin King, PH.D, a Clinical Psychologist specialist, and the MDOC’s expert on prison disciplinary records. Many of Haywood’s work supervisors have given him top performance grades, he said.

The late Judge Kaye Tertzag.

“What is unique is the impact of age or incompetence of youth on the ability to navigate the legal process,” Judge Hood said, referring to trial Judge Kaye Tertzag’s 1997 offer to Haywood of a plea agreement of 15-25 years, with two years for felony firearm.

“Judge Tertzag’s Cobbs evaluation gave him the opportunity  to state what he thought was the appropriate sentence, without the ability to look forward to see how he will do in prison,” Judge Hood said. “At some point he [Haywood] decided to withdraw his plea. I have to believe that youth played a role.

He concluded. “The question is not so much whether he should be sentenced to life without parole or a term of years. . . but how long the term of years should be. It appears that one of the primary reasons that he is incarcerated right now is because he was 16 and 17 at the time this was happening. The Miller factors all point in the same direction, a term of years.”

Atty. Deb. LaBelle represents Michigan juvenile lifers in federal class action suit Hill v Whitmer.

Judge Hood is the successor Judge to Judge Dalton Roberson, whose LWOP resentence of juvenile lifer David Bennett, incarcerated for over 49 years, was unanimously overturned by the Court of Appeals in January.  He is the son of Denise Page Hood, the chief judge of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III, the pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit. He was appointed to the bench in 2018 by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Atty. Deborah LaBelle represents Michigan’s juvenile lifers in a recently settled federal class action lawsuit, in which Mr. Haywood is a class representative (see main story below). She decried the prosecution’s insistence on a renewed LWOP sentence.

“Now the prosecutor wants to punish a child for going to trial,” LaBelle said. “They said at the time of the crime he could be released in 15 years and now, after he has shown a very, very good institutional record, they wanted to punish him with dying in prison.”

Haywood’s defense attorney  Cecilia Quirindongo Baunsoe said during the hearing that she estimates 80 percent of Wayne Co. Prosecutor Worthy’s recommendations for renewed juvenile life without parole are based primarily on the original offense, not achievements while the individual is serving time. Atty. Quirindongo’s office is in Oakland County. She said she represents juvenile lifers in a variety of counties, but from her experience, Wayne County is the only one that takes such stances.

Miller hearing by Zoom on Lonnell Haywood, Fri. March 19.  Judge Noah Hood (top L), defense attorney Cecilia Quirindongo Baunsoe (top R); (bottom L to R) AP Lori Dawson (wife of AP Tom Dawson, head of WCPO JLWOP unit), Lonnell Haywood at Chippewa CF, and  Haywood’s family members.


 Yusef Qualls, 41 (below) is a Wayne Co. juvenile lifer facing LWOP again. He was sentenced to LWOP at the age of 16 in 1996 and has spent 25 years in prison. He is currently at Michigan’s Macomb Correctional Facility.

While COVID-19 ravages MDOC, County must now hold complex “Miller” hearings costing at least one-quarter million dollars 

“Wayne County is outlier” among Michigan counties; Oakland withdrew 19 LWOP recommendations, others have resentenced all to term of years

“A presumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence,” Washtenaw Co. Pros. Savit

“I think everyone should have an opportunity to get out some day,” Ingham County Pros. Carol Siemon

24 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed JLWOP; the U.S. is the only country in the world that allows it

By Diane Bukowski

March 18, 2021    



Pros. Kym Worthy stood by the wrongful conviction of Davontae Sanford, 14,  for four murders in 2016. Sanford was freed after nine years in adult prisons.

DETROIT– As illness and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic ravage Michigan prisons, up to 54 Wayne County juvenile lifers are learning that Prosecutor Kym Worthy has refused to withdraw her office’s recommendations that they remain in prison until they die.

Ninety-six percent of the County’s remaining juvenile lifers are Black, while the county is 40% African-American. Only 14% of  Michigan residents are Black.  In 2016, 93% of Wayne County’s 150 juvenile lifers were Black. Then, Worthy recommended renewed life without parole sentences for 66 individuals, the highest number in the state, now reduced only by 15 youthful offenders.

Pros. Kym Worthy with former State AG Bill Schuette.

“In February, at the request of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed notices in our pending juvenile lifer cases,” the WCPO said March 11 in a statement attributed to Asst. Prosecutor Tom Dawson.  “The notices stated that at that time we were not withdrawing our motions for life without parole.  Our position on these motions is not irrevocable. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has always and continues to review the cases of each of these juvenile lifers on an individualized basis in order to serve the best interests of justice for the citizens of Wayne County.”

Wayne County’s remaining juvenile lifers have already served from 8 to 44 years of their original sentences. The U.S.  Supreme Court vacated those sentences in 2012, ruling that mandatory juvenile life without parole for children under 18 is unconstitutional and should be reserved for the “rarest” cases. Worthy and former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette led challenges by various states contending that the 2012 ruling was not retroactive, delaying compliance until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is retroactive, in 2016.

See 10-9646 Miller v. Alabama (06/25/2012) (  and 14-280 Montgomery v. Louisiana (01/25/2016) (

Atty. Deborah LaBelle representing juvenile lifer Anthony Jones during resentencing in 2016.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison. Its policies on life without parole also isolate it. Most countries allow review of life sentences after 15 years. At least 24 states here have outlawed juvenile life without parole since 2012 and more are moving to do so.

Atty. Deborah LaBelle represents the state’s juvenile lifers in a federal class action lawsuit, Hill v. Whitmer, which settled last year.

“Unlike other county prosecutors, Wayne County refused to withdraw a single juvenile life without parole intent notice despite the orders in Hill,” LaBelle said. “Proceeding with 51 requests for JLWOP is wholly contrary to the Supreme Court’s rulings that such a sentence is appropriate for only the very rarest of youth.”

Atty. Tina Olson, Juvenile Lifer Unit Manager for the State Appellate Defender Office, said, “Compared to counties state-wide, Wayne County continues to be an outlier. Part of the frustration is that we feel we are going to ‘Miller’ hearings on cases that should have settled. . . .and the WCPO is not moving on these hearings at a pace they should be.”

Most counties have either withdrawn recommendations for life without parole or resentenced their juvenile lifers to terms of years. This allows a reduction of numbers in state prisons, where social distancing is not possible, to cope with the pandemic. The MDOC reports that to date, 139 prisoners have died from COVID-19 and the majority have been infected.

“Now you’re in a position where what was a presumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said Jan. 11.

“The sentence that was bestowed on juvenile lifers did not include catching COVID, it did not include death, but that is the situation that we’re in right now.” All juvenile lifers from Washtenaw County have been resentenced to terms of years.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald withdrew 19 recommendations for JLWOP shortly after her election this year. She defeated Jessica Cooper, who had recommended that all juvenile lifers there remain in prison until death.

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon announced last year that she is reviewing the cases of 90 LIFERS, 65% of them Black, for possible sentence reductions and release. “I think everyone should have an opportunity to get out some day,” she said.

The Hill v. Whitmer lawsuit was filed in 2010 and initially resulted in a ruling that all state juvenile lifers should be eligible for parole, but former State AG Schuette repeatedly appealed all such findings even after the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in in 2012 and 2016.

LaBelle and the Michigan ACLU settled Hill with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Nov. 17, 2020. The settlement requires  that “prosecutors shall complete a new review” of the state’s juvenile lifers who have not yet been resentenced . . .and determine whether they intend to seek to re-impose a life-without-parole sentence. . .or whether they will withdraw their motion seeking to re-impose that sentence.”


The prosecutors then must notify the AG and the trial courts of those decisions, and their readiness to proceed with re-sentencings.  For defendants with offenses before Dec. 15, 1998, re-sentencings must be held within 60 days of the settlement date. For those with offenses after that date, re-sentencings must be held within  120 days, The agreement requires the readiness of courts and defense attorneys.

In cases where a LWOP recommendation stands, a “Miller” hearing in front of the sentencing judge is required to determine whether factors associated with age, family, socio-economic background and other matters affected the juvenile’s culpability in the crime. Additionally, numerous scientific studies have shown that children’s brains are still developing up until the age of 25. Some states including Maryland and Washington have extended the “Miller” considerations to young people from 18 to 25.

David Bennett at age 17 going into Garden City courtroom; and at 66 today.

“To date, Michigan courts have held 220 re-sentencing hearings for former ‘juvenile lifers,'” the Michigan State Appellate Defenders’ Office reports.

“Courts have imposed 198 term of years (TOY) sentences and 22 life without parole (LWOP) sentences. Of the 22, four have been vacated on appeal, two more await evidentiary hearings ordered on appeal, and most others await appellate court decisions.”

See full SADO report at:

David Bennett, 66, a Wayne County juvenile lifer from Garden City, is one of the four men whose renewed LWOP sentences have been vacated by the Court of Appeals. He went to prison at age 17 in 1972, and has already served over 49 years.

But Prosecutor Worthy recommended that Bennett should die in prison. An appeals court ruled 3-0 on Jan. 21 that Wayne County Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Dalton Roberson violated Bennett’s rights when he cited mental health as a reason to keep him locked up with no chance for parole. See:

“Indeed, the prosecutor introduced no evidence supporting that Bennett is ‘irreparably corrupt,’” said a panel of Judges Elizabeth L. Gleicher, Brock A. Swartzle, and Jane M. Beckering.

“The resentencing court clearly erred by ignoring this constitutional mandate. Treated mental illness is not a signal of irreparable corruption, and no evidence even hinted that Bennett’s mental illness created a realistic danger that he would reoffend.”

It added that Bennett has become a “productive, stable and peaceful adult” while in prison, even saving more than $40,000 through various jobs. During his last 40 years in prison, they noted, he had not been disciplined for any offenses involving violence or aggressive behavior, or for any other serious matters.

SADO attorney Tina Olson

Counties finance defendants’ legal expenses at a cost of around $50,000 or more for each case, so conducting “Miller” (mitigation) hearings for 54 defendants will cost taxpayers at least $250,000, according to one lawyer specializing in the process. That attorney said it appears that the Wayne County Prosecutor is holding so many Miller hearings to frighten juvenile lifers into settling for higher terms of years. State law recommends minimum terms of 25 years, with maximums set at 60 years.

SADO Atty. Olsen explained,  “It’s a very exhaustive process, requiring significant resources in almost every case. SADO has only four mitigation specialists on staff so others must be hired and paid. Comprehensive life histories must be compiled through interviews with clients, family members, correctional workers, former schoolteachers, and others, and by collecting extensive records.”

She said experts are hired to conduct forensic psychological and neuropsychological evaluations, and an MDOC correctional expert is used to evaluate the defendant’s disciplinary history in prison. She said extensive work and expense on the part of the prosecution is also required.

Edward Sanders at rally for juvenile lifers on steps of Frank Murphy Hall, Detroit Jan. 25, 2021.

But, Olsen said, in the end, many judges are “diligently applying Miller factors and giving well-reasoned opinions that do not result in LWOP sentences.”

She also noted that the process for holding Miller hearings has been considerably slowed when judges or defendants choose to have in-person as opposed to Zoom hearings. Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny said in January that he wants prisoners to have at least tw0 negative COVID-19 tests in order to be transferred to Wayne County Jail for hearings, and that he favors in-person hearings. Olsen said there have also been problems with delays in the MDOC’s transportation of prisoners for such hearings.

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Related stories:


NINETY INGHAM COUNTY, MI LIFERS MAY GET SECOND CHANCE; PROS. CAROL SIEMON OPPOSES LWOP | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought Continue reading

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One-time survival checks are not enough. Even before the pandemic, most U.S. residents were living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to pay bills each month. As the economic crisis worsens, ongoing relief is absolutely critical for people’s survival and human dignity.

That’s why I co-introduced the Automatic Boost to Communities (ABC) Act, which would deliver monthly $2,000 payments to everyone in the U.S.—regardless of immigration status. We’re building a coalition of progressive groups in order to show massive public support for this effort. Can you join us?

Please add your name now as a grassroots co-signer to the ABC Act if you’re in favor of recurring payments during the pandemic.


U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) represents 13th District including Detroit.

Our government’s failure to provide assistance in this pandemic has forced 10 million more people into poverty. At least half of all U.S. residents are struggling to afford essentials like groceries, rent, and water and utility bills. Many parents are going without food in order to feed their children, and many families are on the brink of homelessness.

This is unacceptable. It’s past time for bold action that includes everyone.

There are a few ways the ABC Act would ensure that no one gets left behind:

  • Every single person in the U.S. would get $2,000 per month for the duration of the pandemic and $1,000 per month for a year afterward—including undocumented people, children and other dependents, and people in U.S. protectorates and territories.
  • Everyone would be able to get prepaid debit cards that would automatically reload each month, to cover the 25% of Americans who are underbanked or unbanked and can only cash checks through predatory lenders.
  • An Emergency Responder Corps would conduct wellness checks and targeted outreach to vulnerable groups such as elders, homeless people, and people without phone or internet access, to ensure they receive and understand how to use the debit cards.
  • The bill would also chip away at inequities that have widened during the pandemic, including the racial wealth gap. One example of how Black and brown communities are disproportionately affected by this crisis: More than 2.5x as many Black U.S. households are going hungry than white households.

It’s past time for bold action that includes everyone. Public opinion is on our side: 60% of voters support recurring payments, along with a growing coalition of Congress members and advocates. But we need to show huge public support for this legislation in order for it to pass. We need you.

Please sign on now to be a grassroots co-signer of the ABC Act.

Together, we can make the change we need.

Thank you, Rashida Tlaib       DONATE NOW


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Families of Ray Wood and Malcolm X with their attorneys Benjamin Crump and Ray Hamlin at press conference Feb. 20: (l to right) Breanna Wood, Reginald Wood, Atty. Benjamin Crump, Malcolm X daughters Qubiliah, Ilyasah, and Gamilah Shabazz (r) Atty Roy Hamlin.

Deathbed confession by Black undercover NYPD cop Ray Woods exposes the direct role of the FBI and New York police in the murder of Malcolm X

Malcolm X’s daughters, Wood family, attorneys call for opening of all U.S. government, police files on assassination of revolutionary leader

Assassination lays bare U.S. history of targeting Black leaders, from Nat Turner to Malcolm X, to Detroit’s Imam Luqman Abdullah 

March 2, 2021

Book by Reggie Wood.

This story broke on Feb. 21, the 56th anniversary of the assassination of  world-renowned revolutionary Malcolm X, leader of the Organization of African-American Unity. But since, there has been very little local in-depth coverage of this historic press conference held by the daughters of Malcolm X and the family of Ray Woods, the Black undercover New York police officer who exposed the direct role of the NYPD and the FBI in Malcolm X’s murder. This VOD post includes a YouTube video of the complete press conference, a reading of the actual Ray Wood letter, and event coverage from national sources.

This expose, shocking to many, but broadly known in less detail since and before Malcolm X’s assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, is important during a time when many members of the public are celebrating the exit of former U.S. President Donald Trump with relief, and the entrance of current President Joe Biden. It is important to keep these events in perspective. Both the Republican and Democratic versions of the ruling class in the U.S. have always endorsed genocide and assassinations against people and leaders of color, to prevent fundamental change in the system that would address centuries of oppression.

Particular venom has been reserved for Black revolutionary leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party including the New York Panther 21,  the Attica Brothers, the Nation of Islam and the Organization of African-American Unity led by Malcolm X.

Above is the complete press conference called by the families of Malcolm X and Ray Wood, and their attorneys, and below, Reggie Wood reads his uncle’s letter.

The letter also addresses the FBI set-up of four members of the Black Liberation Front who were arrested four days before the assassination of Malcolm X for an alleged plot to blow up various national monuments including the Statue of Liberty in NYC.

That frame-up, and the frame-up of Imam Luqman Abdullah and his members in Detroit in 2009, resemble numerous other FBI round-ups of impoverished Black men and women across the U.S.  over the decades. Typically, the FBI, operating under COINTELPRO and other designations. sent agent provocateurs in to propose criminal actions to the intended targets, and then arrested and charged them afterwards.

Here in Detroit, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed by President Barack Obama,  turned a blind eye to the brutal murder of Imam Luqman Abdullah, leader of a mosque located in a poor neighborhood on Detroit’s west side.

Like Malcolm X, Imam Abdullah was the victim of both the FBI and Detroit and Dearborn police forces. The Department of Justice issued a criminal indictment against him and individual members of his mosque, based solely on hearsay conversations  reported by FBI infiltrators.

The infiltrators set up a phony robbery of a Dearborn warehouse and lured the leader and his impoverished members into participating. Dozens of U.S. agents and local police then stormed the building. An FBI police dog let loose on the Imam, brutally biting and slashing -him. Agents and local cops followed suit, by shooting the Imam 21 times to death.


Imam Luqman Abdullah, murdered by FBI, Detroit and Dearborn police Oct. 28, 2009.

They went on t0 raid the Masjid El-Haqq mosque itself in Detroit, located on the city’s west side, and arrest others.

Muslim leaders in Detroit and nationally condemned the assassination, which was broadly publicized.

Diane Bukowski’s story on the assassination of Imam Luqman Abdullah (link above) was published in the Voice of Detroit and the Final Call in October, 2010. Bukowski earlier authored many stories on the Imam’s assassination in the now-defunct Michigan Citizen weekly newspaper before her termination in Aug. 2010. 

Sons of Imam Luqman Abdullah, Omar Regan (speaking) and Jamil Carswell to his right, call for an end to murderous FBI raids like the one that killed their father Nov. 4 2009

(Excerpt) “Imam Abdullah, leader of the Masjid El-Haqq mosque in Detroit, sustained 21 gunshot wounds, a broken arm, and numerous lacerations to his face and upper body, which one medical examiner said resulted from police dog bites. Sixty-six federal agents, as well as local and international law enforcement officials, were involved in the raid which ended with his death.

“The evidence does not reveal a violation of any applicable federal criminal civil rights statutes,” the report, issued by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division Oct. 13, declared. “Accordingly, this matter will be returned to the FBI to complete its administrative review.”

Masjid El-Haqq members after prayer including (center) the Imam’s sons Jamil Carswell and Omar Regan (to his left) outside their mosque in Detroit Nov. 4, 2009. 

Abdullah was part of a national alliance headed by former Black Panther leader H. Rap Brown, now known as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, and other former Panthers and activists who restarted their struggles in Black communities after the Party was destroyed by COINTELPRO. (See link at “FBI’s Real Reasons” below.)

FBI’S REAL REASONS FOR ASSASSINATION OF IMAM LUQMAN ABDULLAH | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

Qimayah Regan, daughter of Iman Luqman Abdullah (l). with her daughter Yasmeenah Al-Haider and niece Taheerah Abdul-Hakim at service Oct. 26, 2019.

Ten years after Imam Abdullah’s assassination, Detroit Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo covered the mosque’s commemoration of the horrific event on October 24, 2019.

“Ten years later, family, friends and civil rights advocates are still reeling from the death of Abdullah — whom advocates say is the first mainstream religious leader to die in the U.S. at the hands of federal law enforcement in recent memory,” Warikoo wrote. “No one was charged with any terrorism crime in the case, and authorities have not described any terrorist act he was planning.

“This event really changed all of our lives in a second,” Abdullah’s daghter, Qiyamah Regan, 45, of Detroit, said Saturday evening inside a Detroit mosque hosting an event to remember Abdullah. “Life hasn’t been the same for none of us since this has happened. I think that anybody who’s ever lost someone knows that when you lose someone you love, life is never the same. It’s never going to be the same. All you do is adjust to the new life.”

It’s been 10 years since FBI killing of Imam Luqman Abdullah in Dearborn (

The remembrance service also addressed the Detroit police murder of Detric Driver, in 2019. His Muslim name was Abdullah Abdul Muhiman (#Dullah Beard). Deadline Detroit and VOD covered that murder as well.

Dullah Beard and wife.

“The dead man, Abdullah Abdul Muhiman, [#JusticeforDullahBeard] was not the suspect in the killing of a five-year-old girl hours earlier,” wrote Charlie LeDuff for Deadline Detroit.

“He was an innocent man who had the unfortunate luck to be sleeping on the couch. To make a bad scene worse, the suspected gunman the police were looking for was miles away.

“And yet the police assault team and their superior officers were unaware of that fact, Deadline Detroit has learned. This utter collapse in police work, however, did not stop Chief of Police James E. Craig from announcing at a press conference just hours later, that Muhiman had gotten what he deserved.

‘If you point a gun at officers, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a suspect in any other case,” he said.'”



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                    Above: Interview with Temujin Kensu on Dec. 28, 2020

Michigan Gov. Whitmer denied clemency for Kensu Jan. 2, 2021 despite extensive evidence of innocence, prominent supporters

Multiple witnesses saw Kensu (Freeman) in Escanaba, MI at time of murder for which he is serving a life sentence, which took place in Port Huron, MI

AP Robert Cleland, now a U.S. District Court Judge, told jury Kensu could have chartered a plane to commit the murder, used jail-house informant

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood granted new trial in 2007 in 51-pp. ruling which said Cleland guilty of prosecutorial misconduct

By Diane Bukowski with

B. David Sanders of Proving Innocence


(L to R) Temujin Kensu (a/k/a Fred Freeman) in 1986 at age of 23 and today at age 57

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer denied clemency in January to a Michigan man Detroit News editor Nolan Finley called “the poster child for unresolved wrongful convictions,” Temujin Kensu (a.k.a. Fredrick Freeman).

Kensu has now served 35 years of a life term in prison for the 1986 shotgun slaying of Scott Macklem in a Port Huron Community College parking lot. Multiple eyewitnesses  testified at trial, and since, that he could not have committed the crime because he was in Escanaba, Mich. 400 miles away at the time.

“For years Michigan’s judicial system has time and again failed this wholly innocent man and now the fail-safe option, Executive Clemency, has failed him as well,” said David Sanders of Proving Innocence. “This is in no small part due to the Governor accepting the Parole Board’s recommendation, a body totally unqualified to examine cases of actual innocence.”

Bill Proctor, retired Ch. 7 News reporter

Proving Innocence was founded by former Channel 7 news reporter Bill Proctor, who did numerous investigative stories on Kensu’s case over the years, beginning in 1995.

At trial, Asst. Prosecutor Robert Cleland, now a U.S. District Court Judge, presented what some have called the “flying carpet” theory that Kensu, penniless at the time, could have chartered a private plane to Port Huron to commit the crime. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood, sitting in the same district as Cleland, granted Kensu’s habeas appeal of his conviction in a scathing 51 page opinion in 2010.

She said Cleland had indeed committed “prosecutorial misconduct,” among other factors. Judge Page Hood is now Chief Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“We know of no case in the country where a Chief Judge has condemned a judicial colleague serving on her very bench,” Sanders said.  “Unfortunately, her ruling was overturned on purely procedural grounds of late filing, having nothing to do with Temujin’s actual innocence.”

U.S. District Court Judges Robert Cleland (l) and Denise Page Hood (r) now Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan.

No forensic evidence connected Kensu to the murder, only two vague witness statements, one of them elicited from a jail-house informant recruited by Cleland. The other witness was Kensu’s ex-girl friend, who was engaged to Macklem at the time and reportedly was angry about her break-up with Kensu.

No follow-up was done to locate a shotgun shell box found at the scene that has a fingerprint that is not Temujin’s.

The University of Michigan Law School’s Michigan Innocence Clinic submitted a clemency application on Temujin’s behalf based upon his innocence as well as his serious health conditions that put him at high risk of re-infection by COVID-19, which is raging through the prison system.

“It is incomprehensible that this innocent man could be considered guilty when every independent examination (outside the prosecution’s) has concluded otherwise,” Sanders said.

“It is mystifying that the Governor denied Temujin’s clemency based upon the Parole Board’s recommendation when that body does not include innocence as a consideration and they are on record saying so. How can anyone have faith in Michigan’s justice system with such a truly irrational and dysfunctional approach to reviewing clemency applications?”

State law requires that the Governor consider (though not adopt) the recommendation of Michigan’s Parole Board. In its deliberations for parole, the board considers such matters as whether the prisoner has expressed remorse for the crime, has reformed, and has a place to live and work. MDOC prisoners applying for parole who claim innocence are almost always denied.

“It is apparent that the Governor’s office simply rubberstamped the Parole Board’s recommendation and did not review actual innocence at all,” Sanders said. “If innocence was examined, what is the evidence of Temujin’s guilt?  If such evidence exists, it should not be kept under veil as the Parole Board does but should be publicly revealed.  What good public Purpose is served by not revealing a solid rationale for keeping this man in prison?”

Sanders said the parole board falsely claimed in their recommendation to Whitmer on Kensu’s clemency application that Kensu had 17 Class I misconduct tickets during his time  in prison, although he now has an excellent record, at -33 points, the lowest possible.

Temujin and Paula Kensu today.

He told the Port Huron Times-Herald that Kensu’s case still is being reviewed by Atty. General Dana Nessel’s office. Nessel  established a state-level Conviction Integrity Unit that operates out of her office in 2019. Later that year, partnering with the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Clinic, it received more than $1 million in federal grants to freview 600 post-conviction claims of innocence. To date, however, that office has yet to announce final results in any case.

“Michigan’s process for reviewing clemency is broken, irrational, and dysfunctional,” Sanders added. “It requires immediate reformation or more wholly innocent people will be denied their rightful freedom.  Michigan cannot claim to have a system that delivers true justice with a process that ignores innocence and condemns innocent men and women to a lonely death behind bars.”

Whitmer spokeswoman Chelsea Parisio told VOD, “The clemency request for Temujin Kensu was denied, but we don’t have anything to add, as we do not comment on clemency applications.” She failed to address VOD’s request for a copy of the parole board’s recommendation on his application.

Send letters to: Temujin Kensu #189355, Macomb Correctional Facility, 34625 26 Mile Road, Lenox Twp., MI 48048

Letters of support can be sent to:  for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood’s ruling granting new trial:

Related stories:

Innocence website stories on Kensu:

Deadline Detroit | Detroit Federal Judge Compared Illegal Immigrants to Insects and Japanese Beetles

Judge defends 1987 case handling | State News | (

Macklem Blog #6 – An Open Letter to Judge Cleland (


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On March 4, VOD will have to pay our quarterly web hosting fee of $380 in order to keep the paper online. This will be a struggle this month. VOD operates on a skeleton budget provided by editors and reporters that live on fixed incomes outside and inside the walls and we sincerely appreciate any donations our readers can afford to keep us going into our 11th year.

We have focused lately on stories related to mass incarceration, the ongoing reincarnation of slavery in the U.S. which disproportionately devastates Black and other communities of color and currently is subjecting millions to virtual COVID-19 execution.

Our many stories on the case of Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy hopefully contributed to his recent appellate victory, We look forward joyfully to his eventual release. Stories on the innocence cases of Temujin Kensu, Larry Smith and Kenneth Nixon are in the works, along with our continuing coverage of the cases of Ricky Rimmer, Carl Hubbard, and Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy.






Recent VOD stories relating to mass incarceration:

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(L to r) Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy today; daughter LaShyra with relative and Searcy grandmother Edna Richardson at court hearing in 2018; Searcy with LaShyra as toddler, 2004

Panel says 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny “abused discretion” in nixing Smothers’ confession, committed legal errors

Finds that court repeatedly withheld key ballistics evidence identifying murder weapon  from Searcy jury 

Defense attorney Michael Dezsi calls on prosecution to dismiss charges

By Diane Bukowski 

February 14, 2021

Update April 20, 2021: DeAnthony Witcher, referenced in stories on Thelonious Searcy case, stated in a phone call to VOD Editor Diane Bukowski that he is NOT a police  informant and denies all allegations made against him in any and all stories on the Thelonious Searcy case.

DETROIT—Seventeen years after Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy, now 41, was sentenced to life without parole for murder, a Michigan appeals court has granted him a new trial. A confession by Vincent Smothers, an admitted hit man, to the Sept. 2004 murder of Jamal Segars near Detroit City Airport, and ballistics evidence withheld from Searcy’s jury were key to the unanimous ruling handed down Feb. 11.

“When considering the trial evidence in light of the other evidence that would be presented at retrial, we conclude that Searcy has a reasonably likely chance of acquittal,” the Appeals Court said. “Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by denying Searcy’s motion for relief from judgment with respect to Searcy’s claim of new evidence relating to [Vincent] Smothers.” See:

Chief Judge Timothy Kenny

Timothy Kenny, now Chief Judge of Wayne Co.’s Third Judicial Circuit Court, presided over Searcy’s trial in 2005 and at his evidentiary hearing in 2018, which Kenny ordered based on Searcy’s own pro se motion for a new trial filed from behind prison walls.

“I can’t thank God enough for his everlasting mercy and grace for my life,” Searcy reacted. “As I stood in the midst of my storm of affliction, He never left me. He bound up every wicked and evil principality scheme that the enemy had for my life, through multiple angels that he surrounded me by on my day of judgment.”

Searcy, a father of two daughters, has earned outstanding grades in paralegal courses during his time in prison. He worked closely with defense attorney Michael Dezsi, who represented him at the 2018 hearing and during multiple appeals of Kenny’s denial of his motion.

“I’m happy the Court of Appeals examined the overwhelming new evidence showing that Mr. Searcy didn’t commit the murder for which he has now served almost 17 years in prison,” Dezsi said. “Indeed, the Court of Appeals noted in its decision that my client would likely be acquitted upon presentation of this new evidence.”

COA hearing Thelonious Searcy Feb. 4, 2021 on Zoom/top: Judges Mark Cavanagh, Deborah Servitto, Thomas Cameron; below, (l) WCPO AP Thomas Chambers, (r) defense atty. Michael Dezsi

He said “glaring questions” remain about how the prosecution misled the jury on the bullets found in Segars’ body. “We now know it doesn’t match the gun presented at trial as the murder weapon. Given these obvious problems with the prosecution’s case, it is my sincere belief that the prosecution should dismiss the charges against Searcy.”

Appellate Judges Mark J. Cavanagh, Deborah A. Servitto, and Thomas C. Cameron ruled  per curiam that Judge Kenny “abused his discretion” in his ruling on the evidentiary hearing, which called Smothers’ confession unbelievable. They said that determination is up to a jury, not the judge. They reviewed Smothers’ testimony at that hearing at length in their opinion, and found it

“As our Supreme Court made clear in Johnson, ‘a trial court’s credibility determination is concerned with whether a reasonable juror could find the testimony credible on retrial,” the panel said.

Exonerees Justly Johnson (l) and Kendrick Scott (r) with PI Scott Lewis at Proving Innocence conference in 2019.

We conclude that, when considering Smothers’s testimony in its entirety, it is clear that his testimony is not wholly incredible, as the trial court found, and that a reasonable juror could find his testimony worthy of belief on retrial. Consequently, the trial court clearly erred when it concluded that Smother’s testimony was entirely incredible.”

The Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling, at People v Johnson, 502 Mich 541 (2018), involved the convictions of Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott in 1999 for the murder of Lisa Kindred. See ruling at

The Michigan Innocence Clinic and private investigator Scott Lewis, who also interviewed Vincent Smothers on his confession to the murder for which Searcy was convicted, succeeded in obtaining the exonerations of Johnson and Scott.

Searcy’s appeals panel also found that Kenny and the prosecution repeatedly withheld ballistics evidence from his trial jury in 2005, or misinterpreted it.  Asst. Prosecutor Patrick Muscat introduced a .45 caliber gun found in the home of Searcy’s grandmother as the murder weapon. Kenny told the jury that the only bullet casings in “physical” evidence were two from that gun, and that the caliber of the bullets found in Segars’ body “could not be determined.”

“The jury was very interested in information concerning the casings, the type of gun that was recovered, and the type of bullet that was found in the murder victim,” the panel said.

“Importantly, the jury was informed that ‘the gun that is in evidence is a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun’ and was then informed that the bullet that was removed from the murder victim could not be tested because it was ‘too deformed.’ However . . . .the type of bullet was able to be discerned and had been accurately described as a .40-caliber bullet before trial. Without this important evidence, the jury was left to decide whether, based on the location of the .45-caliber casings and other record evidence, Searcy committed the crimes.”

The court’s opinion clearly showed that it thoroughly examined the transcripts and briefs submitted by Attorneys Dezsi and Chambers, but it stopped short of saying that the judge and/or the prosecution deliberately suppressed ballistics evidence or misled the jury with regard to it.

AP Patrick Muscat, DPD Detective Dale Collins

AP Muscat also handled the trial of 14-year-old Davontae Sanford for murdering  four adults in a house on Runyon St. where drugs, primarily marijuana, were allegedly sold, in 2007. Vincent Smothers told Detroit police and prosecutors shortly after Sanford was sentenced that he had committed the murders and provided a clear, detailed description of the crimes in affidavits submitted during Sanford’s trial. DPD Detective Dale Collins also played a major role in both convictions.

Vincent Smothers recounts details of 2004 murder of Jamal Segars during Thelonious Searcy evidentiary hearing in 2018.

But Smothers’ confession was withheld from Sanford’s defense attorneys just as his confession to the murder of Jamal Segars in 2009 was withheld until the Innocence Clinic received an affidavit from Smothers confessing to the crime, and forwarded it to the Michigan State Police for investigation. Smothers testified that  he withdrew that confession after being told that it might hold up Sanford’s release, but never signed an affidavit to that effect.

He confessed under oath in great detail again, during the 2018 evidentiary hearing in Searcy’s case. He said he had repeatedly submitted additional affidavits regarding the Segars murder. The appeals court noted that he even testified in person against the advice of his attorney.

In Sanford’s case, Judge Brian Sullivan blocked any direct testimony from Smothers, likely further delaying Sanford’s release. Despite that, an appellate court ruled in Sanford’s favor. But that ruling was overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court, which said they would reconsider if Sanford’s attorneys filed a motion for relief from judgment instead of a motion to withdraw his confession. That was later done, finally leading to Sanford’s release.

During his sentencing in 2005, Searcy said on the record, “I would like to say for the record–NO, I’m not guilty of these charges that were brought against me. These charges are false. I didn’t kill Jamal Segars and I didn’t shoot Brian Minner. I thought justice would prevail. But still as a young Black man in the system I didn’t have a chance.” – Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, of Detroit, statement May 23, 2005, prior to being sentenced to life without parole.

Over 20,000 have signed Change. Org petition for Searcy’s freedom at Petition · Michigan Attorney General: FREE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED THELONIOUS SEARCY!!!! ·


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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Nine years after U.S. Supreme Court first banned mandatory juvenile life without parole, 43% of Michigan juvenile lifers have not been re-sentenced.

“Now you’re in a position where what was a presumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence.” — Eli Savit, Washtenaw County Prosecutor

Nationally, Michigan has highest number of  juvenile lifers still in prison 

Other lifers and wrongfully convicted individuals also face virtual death sentences

COVID-19 death count in MDOC skyrocketing, now at 135

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

 February 9, 2021

Sign Petition for COVID-19 Vaccines for Prisoners

Petition · The Injustice Must End: Support Michigan Prison Reform ·

Edward Sanders at rally for juvenile lifers on steps of Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit Jan. 25, 2021.

DETROIT—Former juvenile lifers and their supporters gathered outside the Wayne County Third District Courthouse Jan. 25 to call for the release of 150 others sentenced to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP), who still languish in Michigan’s prisons.

They said the state’s failure to re-sentence them, nine years after the U.S. Supreme Court first banned JLWOP, now subjects them to possible death sentences as COVID-19 rages through Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) prisons. To date, 137 prisoners have died due to the coronavirus.

The Supreme Court ruled that mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences for those under 18 years old are unconstitutional, “cruel and unusual punishment,” and should be handed down only in the “rarest” cases of “irreparably corrupt” defendants, in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), which made Miller retroactive.

William Garrison/MDOC

“At time of the Supreme Court decisions, over 2,500 children were serving life without parole nationally,” said Edward Sanders, a juvenile lifer released in 2017. “Since then, only 700 have been released. At least 12 have died in custody. . . We don’t agree with putting children in cages. We don’t agree with ignoring the USSC decision.”

Sanders pointed out the death of William Garrison of Detroit in Macomb Correctional Facility on April 18, 2020. Garrison went to prison at the age of 16 in 1976, convicted of a murder during a robbery that went awry. A judge ordered his release after re-sentencing in March 2020, but he died of COVID-19 as he waited for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office to register its formal approval of his release.

Washtenaw Co. Prosecutor Eli Savit

“Now you’re in a position where what was a presumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit told WXYZ Channel 7 News in an interview Jan. 11.  “The sentence that was bestowed on juvenile lifers did not include catching COVID, it did not include death, but that is the situation that we’re in right now.”

Savit is newly-elected, after running on a campaign devoted to remedying mass incarceration and other defects in the criminal justice system.

Nationally, Michigan has the highest number of juvenile lifers still in prison, and had the second highest number of juvenile lifers among the states at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Since then, many states have completely outlawed JLWOP.

The U.S. is the ONLY country in the world that sentences children to life in prison, a/k/a death by incarceration. It is also Cthe only country in the world that implements “natural-life” sentences. Most other countries allow such lifers to see parole boards after 15 years.

In Wayne County, approximately 51 out of an original 144 juvenile lifers, the highest number among Michigan counties,  remain to be resentenced, according to the State Appellate Defenders’ Office and the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union.

However, an undetermined number of those listed as resentenced, both in Michigan and in Wayne County, are still in prison because the state legislature mandated that anyone being resentenced must serve a minimum term of 25 years. (See box at left.)

The state of Michigan fought the USSC 2012 ruling for four years until the Court declared it retroactive in 2016. Then, the state’s county prosecutors recommended that 60 percent of Michigan’s juvenile lifers be recommended for renewed LWOP, further delaying compliance with the USSC rulings.

Michigan juvenile lifer and prison activist Efrén Paredes, Jr. of Benton Harbor spoke at the 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration held virtually in Detroit Jan. 15.

Paredes was 15 when he was convicted in 1989 in Berrien County, where the court system is run by the majority-white residents of St. Joseph. He contracted COVID-19 in December 2020, and is awaiting the results of a re-sentencing hearing held Jan. 15.

“Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel can intervene in this situation by having her office take over the remaining juvenile lifer cases,” Paredes said. “She can then withdraw the motions seeking JLWOP sentences against the remaining juvenile lifers and allow them to receive term of years sentences.”

Paredes has a Facebook page at (20+) Free Efrén Paredes, Jr. | Facebook.  Also See and his supporters are campaigning for a 10-Pt. Prison Reform program at

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and MDOC Director Heidi Washington have said they are releasing as many “parole-eligible” prisoners as possible to ease overcrowding, in an attempt to comply with COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines. They reported that 5,000 “parole-eligible” prisoners had been released as of December.

WXYZ Channel 7 News reported last December that MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz said that half of the 108 prisoners who had died from COVID-19 at that point were serving life sentences and wouldn’t have been released anyway. That remark that has been hotly contested by many prisoners and their loved ones, as callous and grossly inaccurate.

Juvenile lifers are not included in the “parole-eligible” category although most will eventually be resentenced to terms of years. The Michigan ACLU settled a 20-year lawsuit against the state of Michigan last September, Hill v. Whitmer, which sets time limits for the re-sentencings of the 150 juvenile lifers still incarcerated.

“. . . the settlement allows prosecutors 90 days to complete a new review of class members who haven’t been resentenced, and provides a 60-120 day time limit for how long prosecutors have to prepare their case for court,” Michigan Radio reported. “The settlement also makes those still awaiting resentencing eligible for rehabilitation programming in prison – something parole boards often consider when deciding whether an individual should be released.”  See: Settlement reached for Michigan’s juvenile lifers, schedules “prompt” resentencings | Michigan Radio 

The settlement agreement, which includes the names of the individual prisoners, is at:

Parolable lifers who challenged “life means life” policy in ultimately successful lawsuit. Foster-Bey passed

Also excluded from consideration for immediate release due to the coronavirus are prisoners serving “parolable” life sentences, for crimes such as second-degree murder. Before the reign of former Michigan Gov. John Engler in the 1990’s, parolable lifers were eligible for parole at 10-15 years into their sentences. Since then, their numbers have skyrocketed because Engler’s appointed parole board chief Stephen Marschke declared that “life means life.” A class-action lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs above, Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, eventually resulted in a ruling loosening the Engler-era strictures. Parolable lifers still see the parole board every five years and many are eventually released.

The late Kenneth Foster-Bey at Safe and Just Michigan rally for lifers after his release. Foster-Bey spent his time after release fighting for others he left behind. He passed in 2020.  

Many governors have also commuted the sentences of those serving life without parole. In 2018, Gov. Rick Snyder commuted the sentences of  25 lifers, and pardoned 36 others, a total of 61. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm commuted over 100 lifers’ terms. Governors William Milliken, James Blanchard, and John Engler also exercised this executive power at the end of their terms in office.

Private investigator Scott Lewis, who specializes in wrongful conviction cases, told VOD last year that he estimates at least 30 percent of MDOC prisoners are actually innocent. In the past several years, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has exonerated or released 24 prisoners, most serving life terms, due to actual innocence or unfair trials. Many of those released say there are “100’s” of other innocent prisoners still incarcerated in the MDOC.

What allows many to endure prison conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic is the fact that they continue to fight their convictions in court appeals at state and federal levels.

 #FreeMichiganJuvenileLifersNow, #EndDeathbyIncarceration, #StopCOVID19Execution, #VaccinesforallMichiganPrisonersNow, #EndSchooltoPrisonPipeline

A formatted PDF of this story can be printed at


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. Please, if you can:



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STOP DEATH IN PRISON FOR CHILDREN! JUVENILE LIFER RALLY FOR JUSTICE SUN. JUNE 18 @ 2-5 PM DETROIT | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought Continue reading

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I want to hold those in power accountable for my wrongful conviction, and those of others: Searcy; 19,000 have signed Change. Org petition for his freedom at Petition · Michigan Attorney General: FREE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED THELONIOUS SEARCY!!!! ·

 “It’s hard enough when you’re guilty, it’s twice as hard when you’re innocent.”—Vincent Smothers’ testimony exonerating Thelonious Searcy

‘The bullets don’t lie.” Defense Attorney Michael Dezsi

AP Patrick Muscat, DPD Sgt. Dale Collins played key roles in the convictions of both Searcy and Davontae Sanford

Appeals Court hearing Thurs. Feb. 4, 10 am, Panel 4, on Zoom





National Registry of Exonerations Report: 54 percent of wrongful convictions involved misconduct by prosecutors, police

By Diane Bukowski

January 23, 2021 

Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy with daughter LaShyra Thomas before 2005 conviction. Photo: LaShyra Thomas

DETROIT—The Michigan Court of Appeals will finally consider shocking evidence from a 2018 evidentiary hearing in a high-profile murder case, 15 years after the conviction of Detroiter Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, now 40, for the crime. Searcy has maintained his innocence from the start.

“As an Asiatic Black man,” Searcy told VOD, my purpose for fighting my case so hard is to speak truth to power and hold accountable those responsible for my wrongful conviction, as well as the convictions of others who’ve been wronged by the corrupt judicial system in the City of Detroit.”

Well-known hitman Vincent Smothers confessed to the murder of Jamal Segars outside City Airport on Conner in great detail at the 2018 hearing. It was held in front of Searcy’s trial judge Timothy Kenny just before he became Chief Judge of the Wayne Co. Third Circuit Court.

Ballistics testimony showed that Wayne County Prosecutor Patrick Muscat, aided by  Kenny, lied to the jury about the gun and the bullets which killed the victim.

Muscat and Detroit Police Detective Dale Collins, a key witness at Searcy’s trial, also helped frame 14-year-old Davontae Sanford for the “Runyon Street killings” of four people in 2007. Smothers’ confession to those murders, which was concealed by prosecutors and ,police  led in part to the dismissal of Sanford’s case eight years later.

Collins has been instrumental in numerous other frame-ups, including those involving the notorious “Ring of Snitches” in the 1990’s, which led to multiple exonerations.

The Appeals Court hearing on Searcy’s case is set for Thurs. Feb. 4 in front of Judges Mark J. Cavanagh, Deborah A. Servitto and Thomas C. Cameron, JJ. (Panel 4). It will be held via Zoom. Searcy’s attorney Michael Dezsi is asking the Court to allow public livestreaming of the event.

Wayne Co. 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Timothy Kenny (l), AP Patrick Muscat

Judge Kenny, who became Chief Judge for the Wayne County Third District in Jan. 2019, denied Searcy’s motion for a new trial six months after the evidentiary hearing, in Dec. 2018.

He said did he not think Smothers’ confession was  “credible,” based in part on Smother’s initial recantation to Michigan State police investigators after lawyers for Davontae Sanford told him it could delay Sanford’s release. Legal experts say that determination should be up to a jury.

Kenny also claimed bullets found around Segars’ car were .45 caliber, not .40 caliber as clearly shown in exhibits at Searcy’s trial in 2005, and at the 2018 evidentiary hearing.  In his confession on the stand in 2018, Smothers said he used .40 caliber bullets, corroborating a police report from the scene.

Searcy filed an application for leave to appeal, but the Michigan Court of Appeals at the time gruffly denied the application, “because defendant has failed to establish that the trial court erred in denying the motion for relief from judgment.” The Michigan Supreme Court later remanded the case back to the Appeals Court, saying, “in lieu of granting leave to appeal, we REMAND this case to the Court of Appeals for consideration as on leave granted.” This meant the COA must address the substance of Searcy’s claims.

Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, MI.

During this appeal process, Searcy has twice suffered severe bouts with the COVID-19 virus which has decimated Michigan prisons. The virus threatened to make his “life without parole” sentence a summary death sentence, but Searcy, the father of twodaughters, has never ceased to fight for his life, his family, and his freedom.

Searcy is incarcerated at the Thumb Correctional Facility, where 60 percent of the prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. After he tested positive a second time, he was shipped to the Macomb Correctional Facility for two weeks, where one-third of the prisoners have tested positive.

Judge Kenny’s instruction to Searcy’s trial jury that fatal bullets were “too deformed” to identify them, failing to note exhibits showed the bullets were .40 caliber, not .45 caliber.  (Trial transcript pp. 

Since his incarceration, Searcy has devoted his time to studying the law, recently gaining grades of all A’s in criminal law paralegal courses conducted by the Blackstone Career Institute.

He has combed through tens of thousands of pages of his trial transcripts and  his Detroit Police Department homicide file, while staying abreast of the latest court rulings in other cases. Assisted by another “jail-house lawyer,”  he wrote the 2016 pro se motion for a new trial which won his evidentiary hearing in 2018. That motion was based not only on the discovery of new evidence, but also filed under MCR 770.1, which addresses issues of likely innocence.

Searcy is looking forward to re-uniting with his two daughters, present as toddlers when police stormed into his grandmother Edna Richardson’s home in 2004 to arrest the newly-married Searcy.

(L to R) Thelonious Searcy today, daughter LaShyra Thomas with unidentified relative, grandmother Edna Richardson at hearing; grades in criminal law classes.

His daughters have visited him throughout his incarceration and supported him at his court hearings since. Mrs. Richardson hired private investigator Scott Lewis for Searcy’s case, paid for Searcy to obtain his homicide file, and maintained a voluminous trove of other case documents at her home for review by reporters.

Searcy’s supporters have garnered nearly 19,000 signatures on a Change.Org petition for his freedom, at  Petition · Michigan Attorney General: FREE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED THELONIOUS SEARCY!!!! ·

Additionally, Searcy’s case is featured on Thelonious Searcy | Actual Innocent Prisoners.

NRE Report 2020

54% of Wrongful Convictions Nationally involved Police, Prosecutorial Misconduct–Report by National Registry of Exonerations

In September, 2020, the National Registry of Exonerations released a study, “Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent,” which showed that misconduct by prosecutors and police contributed to the false criminal convictions of more than half — 54 percent— of innocent people who were later exonerated.

Reviewers called it the  “by far the most thorough study ever of official misconduct by police, prosecutors and others in criminal cases in the United States. It is the only such study based on a comprehensive database of cases of wrongly convicted defendants: the first 2,400 exonerations recorded in the vational Registry of Exonerations.” Read the full report at comprehensive report.


In Searcy’s case, Vincent Smothers testified that he repeatedly told numerous police, court and media representatives, in affidavits and letters over three years, that he had committed the Segars murder, but to no avail.

He took the stand at Searcy’s evidentiary hearing over the advice of his own lawyer, to describe the murder first-hand in great detail, as described in Deszi’s brief below:

AP Muscat presented a .45 caliber gun at Searcy’s trial, alleging it was the murder weapon without any fingerprint or other ballistics evidence.

However, he also presented Peoples Exhibit #23 at trial (at left above), in which Detroit Police Officer David Pauch identified the bullets found in Segars’ body at the morgue as .40 caliber. At Searcy’s 2018 evidentiary hearing, independent firearms expert David Balash confirmed Pauch’s report, and testified the bullets were found in Segars’ body.

Additionally, a .40 caliber bullet that the DPD crime lab initially identified as a 9mm shell casing was produced for analysis. The original designation was corrected by Detroit Police Officer Patricia Little of the Conviction Integrity Unit during the evidentiary hearing. The bullet is ET#07191604, shown on the report.

Also during the evidentiary hearing, the testimony of the prosecution’s reluctant key witness DeAnthony Witcher was challenged with newly discovered evidence showing that the DPD had covered up a concealed weapons arrest of Witcher just prior to Searcy’s arrest.

AP Muscat forced Witcher to submit to an investigative subpoena hearing without counsel, and Judge Kenny forced Witcher to testify by giving him “use immunity.”

Below is Private Investigator Scott Lewis’ audiotape of Vincent Smothers’ confession to the Jamal Segars murder, obtained in 2017.


Thelonious Searcy Atty. Grievance against Patrick Muscat

Atty. Michael Dezsi’s Brief on Remand to Court of Appeals:

Michigan Supreme Court’s remand of Searcy case to Court of Appeals:

Michigan Court of Appeals denial of Searcy application for leave to appeal:

Judge Timothy Kenny’s order denying Searcy motion for relief from judgment Dec. 3, 2018:

Searcy’s pro se motion for new trial, filed July 22, 2016:

Part one of Searcy brief with Motion:

Part two of  Searcy brief with Motion:


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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COVID-19 Rally vs. inhumane treatment of prisoners at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility Dec. 11, 2020 Photo: Honeysuckle Magazine

By Ricardo Ferrell

Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor

Field Editor, Voice of Detroit;

Senior Writer, My Life Matters Too

January 10, 2021

Do Prisoners’ Lives Matter?

That’s a question repeatedly asked by people on the outside trying to look inside Michigan’s Prison system to understand why now 125 of its most vulnerable have die, and more continue dying daily, after contracting COVID-19.

In the spring of 2020, the MDOC saw its first prisoner test positive for the coronavirus. Before long there were hundreds of prisoners testing positive in a single facility.

On April 17, 24 positive cases were identified. And the death of four prisoners who had tested positive for COVID-19 brought the number to 17 prisoners in the MDOC to die from this virus.

On May 18, 830 positive cases were identified. Gus Harrison Correctional – had 612 positives. And the death of two prisoners who tested positive for COVID-19. The prisoners had been housed at Lakeland Correctional Facility and Gus Harrison Correctional Facility. This brought 57 prisoners in the MDOC to die from this virus.

Families protest outside prison in Santa Barbara, California.

The above dates reflect early on in the crisis. As the summer rolled in, we began to see several more facilities to catch on fire with COVID cases, and sadly more deaths.

By the fall, there were over a thousand cases reported in daily updates. In fact, on Nov. 12, there were 1,006 positive cases, and on Dec. 3, there were 1,362 positive cases to report.

The number of prisoner deaths continued to rise, for an example: On May 18th, they reported 57 prisoners who had died from COVID-19, then on Nov. 12th, it rose to 75 deaths, and by Dec. 29th, there were 116 deaths.

William Garrison, Family Photo, 2009

I am both angry and sad about how so many prisoners (over 22,000) have caught this invisible deadly disease and many losing their lives due to improper responses by corrections officials and prison administrators who both are responsible for assuring the safety and safeguard of those under its care against communicable diseases. When I learned of my friend William Garrison dying from COVID in April 2020, just two weeks before he was scheduled to be released, it saddened me to my core. Garrison had served 44 years, only to die at the end of his sentence because of gross negligence on the part of staff.

In mid November, we were hit particularly hard on the level II side of the facility at Gus Harrison. First, there were about 25 who tested positive, then on or about Nov. 23rd, the test results started coming in, and upwards of 200 of us received a ‘Final Results Report’ from Curative Labs in Washington, DC, showing us to be positive for SARS-CoV-2. Imagine the alarm this must have caused.

I sat on the bunk for 5 minutes staring unbelievably at the test results. Asking myself, how in the hell did this happen to me? Then immediately began to worry like crazy because I have an underlying medical condition which puts me at higher risk of dying from this deadly virus. The psychological effect brought on by knowing what type of damage this coronavirus can cause, is maddening to say the least.

GARWOOD TURNER, 76: Died while commutation on Gov. Whitmer’s desk

Garwood Turner

Within 3 days after he contracted the coronavirus, Garwood Turner, 76, an elderly sick prisoner at the Gus Harrison Facility was pronounced dead from COVID complications, Dec. 17, 2020. He locked just a few doors down across the hall from me before he was moved to another housing unit. Its obvious COVID killed Turner, but had staff properly checked on him during their required 30 minute rounds his condition could have been detected more quicker, and medical attention provided which could’ve help to save his life.

His frailty and poor health should have been of significant concern to both custody staff, as well as health care providers. In short, Garwood Turner wasn’t given adequate attention by those responsible for assuring that his safety and health was protected. Staff simply dropped the ball in Turner’s situation. His family deserves to know of the negligence and incompetence by staff who failed to afford him the common decency of proper care. Sadly, Turner’s commutation was on Gov. Whitmer’s desk.


Lee Weber Lawrence

Less than 12 days after Turner’s death, another elderly prisoner Lee W. Lawrence, 83, who had been in prison since the early 70s died from complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 27, 2020. He was known throughout the prison system as Baby Lawrence. I met him about 40 years ago, we were chained together on the infamous ‘Snow Bird’, en route to Marquette Branch Prison in the Upper Peninsula. We ended up in the same cellblock. I didn’t bump back into him until 1997 at Carson City, then it took 22 years before I would see him again. I would kick it with the ‘Babe’ from time to time about the old days.

He was quite the storyteller. He use to tell me some interesting tales about his time in Cuba, during the Bay of Pigs, back when Fidel Castro came out of the hills to oust Batista and his regime from power, and how he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri as a young man. He would tell me about his daughter Billie Lawrence, she’s a singer. Baby Lawrence was so proud of Billie and I think in his own way, he wished they could’ve visited one last time, to tell her face to face just how much he loved her. Baby, you will be missed by your family, your comrades and those who knew you best.


Curtis Ray “Suicide” Watkins (family photo)

Also, we lost Curtis ‘Suicide’ Watkins, 68, one of the realest brothers these penitentiaries have ever seen. Back in 1975, when I first came to prison at age 17, ‘Cide’ was one of those cats I had heard about and wanted to meet. We had a mutual friend and based on that connection, we always had respect for one another. I remember his daughter Sharon Phillips back when she use to be on television. His family is going to miss him, just as thousands of incarcerated brothers are going to as well.

Its a shame how Garrison served 44 yrs, Turner 46 yrs, Lawrence 48 yrs, and Watkins 48 yrs., then ended up killed by COVID. This should be a shock to the conscience of officials in charge of the MDOC response to this pandemic.  It makes you wonder whether if the negligence by staff is intentional. There’s no justifying the lack of concern or the disregard for our lives by staff. Someone needs to be held accountable.


See “Suicide” Watkins’ obituary with video from ceremony, comments at

Curtis Ray “Suicide” Watkins Obituary – Visitation & Funeral Information (



ACLU TO MICH. GOV. WHITMER: COVID-19 VACCINES FOR PRISONERS NOW, A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

Quentin Jones

In the story below, Quentin Jones, a leader of the My Life Matters Too Newspaper inside Gus Harrison CF along with Ricardo Ferrell, recounts how MDOC officials wrote him up for helping Shawanna Vaughn of NYC organize the Dec. 11 protest. On Dec. 23, he says he was transferred to Lakeland CF, a prison that has had 24 deaths from COVID-19 to date, by far the highest number of any facility in the state.

On Michigan Department of Corrections’ Negligent Handling of COVID-19: A Message From Prisoner Quentin Jones – Honeysuckle Magazine

Activists Organize Rally in Michigan to Protest Inhumane Treatment of Prisoners Affected by Covid-19 – Honeysuckle Magazine

Michigan Department of Corrections Under Fire for Failing to Take Appropriate Measures to Combat Covid-19 – Honeysuckle Magazine



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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Protest outside San Quentin Prison in California, March 2020

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and the most inhuman.”

 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 25, 1966

Sign Voice of Detroit’s petition to Gov. Whitmer at:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in jail during the Birmingham Bus Boycott.

ACLU to Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS Director Gordon: “A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care. . . .has no place in civilized society.”

State’s failure to prioritize Michigan prisoners for COVID-19 vaccines violates 8th Amendment

Other states including Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico and Pennsylvania prioritize prisoners

Michigan prisons have second highest number of COVID-19 cases,  third highest number of deaths in the country

January 16, 2021

Editor: We are very heartened to see that a coalition of human rights groups formed by the Michigan ACLU called on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon on Jan. 13 to prioritize people in prisons and jails for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, in tier one.

VOD began a petition asking the same officials to do so on December 18, 2020 and calls on readers to continue to sign it while state officials respond to the ACLU letter. Sign at

We are hearing many frantic and heartbreaking accounts from  state prisoners with COVID-19 and about those who have died from the unchecked spread of this pandemic in the Michigan Department of Corrections. One hundred twenty-five (125) prisoners have now died, while nearly 60 percent of all MDOC prisoners, 23,400, have tested positive since the pandemic began, according to MDOC figures.

THE MICHIGAN CONSTITUTION HAS OUTLAWED THE DEATH PENALTY SINCE 1847, the first state to do so. No prisoner has been sentenced to death!

Carl Hubbard/MDOC photo

Carl Hubbard just returned to the Carson City Correctional Facility after weeks of hospitalization outside the walls. He is  suffering severe and likely permanent damage to his entire body including his lungs, heart, and circulatory system. He is in imminent danger of death. But he has been placed once again in an all COVID-19 unit.

Prior to his hospitalizations, he told VOD: “I have been very sick with this COVID-19. They tested me eight times and the last time it came back positive after Thanksgiving.  I have been sick ever since, lost all my taste and smell, and am having chest pains. There have been least three deaths here. I’m in the COVID unit 900 where everybody has COVID. But there is really no treatment going on here because an officer infected everybody here.  There are 240 prisoners with COVID in the unit, and in the whole compound,  2100 prisoners and at least 100 C.O.’s with it as well.”

As of Jan. 11, 2021, 2101 of 2,514 prisoners at Carson City have tested positive for the virus; 1,629 cases (65 percent of the total CCF population), are currently active.  Six CCF prisoners have died.

Hubbard was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated  in 1992, based solely on one man’s coerced testimony. Prosecutors had the man arrested for alleged “perjury” as he left the stand on the second day of the trial after recanting, but he has done so repeatedly since. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office continues to oppose all Hubbard’s appeals.

Thelonious Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, and Darrell Ewing also have strong cases for exoneration. They have each suffered severely from COVID-19 and are fighting not only for freedom, but their very lives.

Searcy has a Court of Appeals hearing Feb. 4 on a Michigan Supreme Court remand of his innocence case ordering the COA t0 address factual issues including the testimony of hitman Vincent Smothers that he committed the crime for which Searcy was charged. Ewing is waiting to see whether Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy will appeal his case further after eight judges ordered a new trial over the last three years. Rimmer-Bey, who is 67 and has been incarcerated since 1975,  has a motion pending in trial court for emergency re-sentencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its particular effect on him.  Will they survive long enough?

Some experts estimate that at least 30 percent of MDOC prisoners are innocent. There are tens of thousands of others sentenced to terms of 20 years up to life (a/k/a death by incarceration), These sentences are considered cruel and unusual in most of the rest of the civilized world, where a term of 15 years upon review is generally the most severe penalty for any crime. Why should any human being incarcerated in Michigan have to fear a horrible death from COVID-19 as well?

Release: ACLU Coalition Letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, MDHHS Dir. Robert Gordon, Jan. 13, 2021 


(Full letter at

Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, MDHHS Dir. Robert Gordon.

DETROIT – Today a coalition of civil rights organizations sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, urging the state to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for people who live in correctional facilities statewide, just as the state has prioritized vaccinations for people who work in these facilities and people who live in other congregate settings.

The coalition sent the letter after previously raising these points prior to the updated release of guidelines as part of an ongoing effort to persuade the Governor and MDHHS to treat everyone in congregate living situations equally, because:

  • The average rate of COVID-19 cases among people incarcerated statewide is 983% higher than Michigan’s overall rate, and the mortality rate is 133% higher than Michigan overall.
  • In Michigan prisons, there have been at least 22,629 cases of COVID-19, the third-highest rate in the country, and at least 121 deaths, the second-highest rate in the country.
  • Statewide, more than 2,000 people incarcerated have been infected, and 20 people incarcerated have died of COVID-19, in the last month alone.

Syeda Farhana Davidson

“Prioritizing who in Michigan gets the COVID-19 vaccine and when they get it must be guided by public health policies,” said Syeda Davidson, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney.

“Failing to prioritize people living in jails and prisons defies the recommendations of experts in this field, who recognize that vaccinating this highly vulnerable population as soon as possible is critical to protecting public health. This virus is infecting and killing people who are incarcerated at alarmingly high rates as compared to the general public, and the only way to stop it is to prioritize vaccinations for people in prisons and jails.”

While the MDHHS guidance prioritizes people who live in other congregate living settings, like adult foster care homes and psychiatric facilities, as well as staff for correctional facilities, the guidance excludes people living in correctional facilities from any level of prioritization.

The letter also addresses the racial implications of excluding people who are incarcerated from being prioritized to receive the vaccine. Gov. Whitmer recognized through executive directive last year that racism is a public health crisis, and that this pandemic exacerbates the inequities caused by systemic racism.

Protesters outside Philadelphia City Hall call for release of prisoners due to COVID-19 pandemic. March 30, 2020

“Both the offices of Governor Whitmer and MDHHS have consistently and rightfully followed public health experts’ guidelines while addressing this pandemic –  including the recognition that this deadly virus is disproportionately ravishing the Black community,” said
Jonathan Sacks, State Appellate Defender Office director.

“Leaving people in jails and prisons out of the state’s vaccine priority plan is contributing to the systemic racism Governor Whitmer and her administration has been fighting so hard to dismantle. Prioritizing people incarcerated is critical in fighting systemic racism in Michigan.”

COVID-19 is infecting Black Michigan residents more than three times the rate of white Michigan residents, and the Black death rate is more than four times higher than whites. Black people are also over-incarcerated compared to white people. While the Black population is 14 percent in Michigan, they are 49 percent of the Michigan’s jail and prison population.

Amanda Alexander, founder, Detroit Justice Center

[The Marshall Project reports, “Black prisoners in Michigan have accounted for 49 percent of positive COVID tests, at the same time black residents received 31 percent of positive tests in the state as a whole.]

“This unprecedented, deadly pandemic is disproportionately infecting and killing incarcerated people and Black Michiganders,” said Amanda Alexander, Detroit Justice Center founder and executive director. “It is not only humane, but necessary, to prioritize vaccinating individuals who are behind bars just as every other person the state is prioritizing.”

In addition to the ACLU, the State Appellate Defender Office, and the Detroit Justice Center, the letter was signed by Safe & Just Michigan, Michigan Liberation, the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, the American Friends Service Committee, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit, and the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Related from Detroit News:

Opinion: Those in Michigan prisons face a humanitarian crisis during COVID-19 (

Related from Detroit Free Press:

Michigan can’t confirm if 115 prisoner cases were COVID-19 reinfection (

Related from VOD:









Related from other media:

America’s Innocent Prisoners Are Going to Die There – The Atlantic 

Is COVID-19 Falling Harder on Black Prisoners? Officials Won’t Tell Us. | The Marshall Project

COVID-19 and mass incarceration: a call for urgent action – The Lancet Public Health


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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