“Stewart said, ‘If you don’t cooperate. . . I will put everything on you, evidence, testimonies, everything.'” — Willie Merriweather

Cdr. Gerald Stewart’s corrupt practices exposed in 1981, 1984 Love, Ray cases; Love exonerated in 2001:  DPD use of  hidden ‘miscellaneous files’ 

DPD switched guns in Merriweather case in 1987; his DPD CIO Donald Stawiasz switched bullets in 1992 case of exoneree Desmond Ricks

DPD Sgt. Ronald Sanders, others beat and threatened Merriweather; Sanders’ brutal tactics cited in Danny Burton 1987 conviction, vacated 2019

Co-defendants back account of frame-up; Frederick Hammond, chief witness vs. Merriweather, told an0ther man he and cops set Merriweather up

Despite former DPD chief  Craig’s promise to investigate all cases linked to Stawiasz, Wayne Co. CIU admits no action on Merriweather case for 5 yrs.

By Diane Bukowski

May 21, 2023

Willie Merriweather 2020 (OTIS)

Willie Merriweather, 68, has contended since his 1987 conviction of three execution-style murders on Detroit’s west side that police framed him because he would not testify against five of his co-defendants, who went free while he was convicted. He says he refused despite vicious beatings by the police.

Merriweather tells a harrowing tale of witness round-ups and coercion, beatings, manufactured evidence, and other police abuses particularly rampant during the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

DPD Cdr. Gerald Stewart, Det. Sgt. Ronald Sanders, and Sgt. David Stawiasz were the chief players in his case. Each has been cited for their misconduct in multiple cases of other defendants, including exonerees Desmond Ricks, Dwight Love, and Danny Burton, as well as Roger Carlos Ray, whose case VOD has covered.

“Former Homicide Inspector Gerald Stewart was totally responsible where he stated directly to me the following after [I was] beaten by Sgt. Ronald Sanders and others,” Merriweather told VOD in 2022.”Stewart said, ‘If you don’t cooperate with my detective, I will put everything on you, evidence, testimonies, everything.”


.38 nickel-plated revolver (top). .38 blue steel revolver (btm). Stock images.

Merriweather says cops replaced the murder weapon in evidence, a .38 blue steel revolver taken from Frederick Hammond, the chief prosecution witness in the case, with Merriweather’s .38 nickel-plated revolver. They also changed dates on police witness reports, and coerced witnesses to the murder to testify falsely against him.


Co-defendant Mark McCloud swore in a 2001 affidavit that “police misconduct plagued our entire trial . . . the trial judge threatened to throw the police in jail for their conduct.”

He says he saw Merriweather at DPD’s homicide division and that he “could see he has been beaten where his face was puffy and dried blood around his nose and mouth area.” Merriweather told McCloud the police did it.

Detroit Free Press, Fri. March 11, 1987 p. 17

“I can attest to the corruption of police Sgt. Ronald Sanders and . . . others who tampered with all the witnesses during the course of the trial,” McCloud added.

“Merriweather was offered a deal to testify against myself and others in return for a 10 to 20 year sentence as the same was offered to police witness Fred Hammond, if they both lied during their testimonies . . . However, Hammond agreed with the police to do so, [but] Merriweather refused to lie and send us to prison.”

He says Merriweather told the others he would take the stand and say none of them were there or knew anything about the murders. “We all asked Merriweather not to do so because he would be saying he knew about the crime, but he stated to us that we didn’t have a chance in the world at a fair trial.”



McCloud reports that Cook County, Ill. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby released hundreds of defendants after finding that cops involved in their cases had been found to have used coercive interrogation tactics, falsified evidence, and intimidated witnesses in other key cases.

“Kim Foxx (DA Cook County) and Marilyn Mosby (DA Baltimore) DID NOT put an INSURMOUNTABLE BURDEN on POOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN MEN AND WOMEN, with no resources to prove what their independent investigations and offices had already discovered,” McCloud says.

“There are many other current and former disgraced Detroit police officers and Detectives who committed misconduct, and have either been allowed to retire with full pensions, forced into early retirement or prosecuted for the criminal acts.

“Yet, there are numerous Poor African-American men and women who were sent to prison in their youth, and are still in prison on the Testimony, Credibility, and investigations by these disgraced current and former Detroit police officers.”

McCloud cites in particular DPD’s Donald Stawiasz and David Pauch, involved in the case of exoneree Desmond Ricks and Willie Merriweather.

The Wayne Co. Prosecutor’s office has not researched other prisoners affected by the cops involved in the 35 cases of exonerations/dismissal of charges its Conviction Integrity Unit has engineered. In 2011, Kym Worthy limited her review of over 1400 cases of prisoners affected by the 2008 closure of the Detroit Crime Lab after discovery of falsified evidence,  to convictions from only 2003-2008, a minimal fraction of the total.


Detainees sleeping on the floor of the crowded Wayne County Jail, 1984–photo from “We Live 24/7 in Hell.” State Carceral Project

Scott Crump, another former co-defendant, backed up McCloud’s account in an interview with VOD June 18. He said he had nothing to do with the killings and didn’t even know Hammond and another co-defendant previously.

“Will told me in the county jail,  “Y’all kids man, I’m gonna take this—I’m gonna get you all out of this,'” Crump told VOD.

“I know for a fact Hammond made up all this stuff,” he went on. ‘I was on the case, and I got the transcripts later. This was a murder case, so he was going to snitch. He said one person paid him for the hit, another gave him the gun, another gave him the bullets, another guy drove the car.

“It was clear the cops were in on this ‘magical’ story. Hammond and another man I never saw in my life  were much older than the rest of us, in their 40’s  and 50’s.”

Wayne County Jail 1974, State Carceral Project

Shortly after his acquittal in the Merriweather case, Crump told VOD he was arrested on another charge and held in the Wayne County Jail again. He said cops allowed Frederick Hammond, who had just testified against him, into his cell to attack him physically, but he fought him off.

Crump backed up Merriweather’s contention that police and prosecutors changed a key  date on police reports describing the alleged conspiracy, which said all the defendants met together on Feb. 28, 1987 to plan the murders. In fact, he and Mark McCloud were in the Wayne County Jail on that day, he said.

“[The cops] went into an extreme overzealous mold ordering the state’s witness to give false testimony by changing the dates of the conspiracy from February 28, 1987 to a new date of March 1st, 1987,” Merriweather told VOD.

“At first the witness denied ever talking to police or prosecutor about the change of the dates, until the witness’ admission was broken down, revealing the truth that the witness did in fact have a discussion with the police and prosecutor about changing the dates of the conspiracy.”


A man who spent time in the Wayne County Jail with Hammond in the 1990’s swore in a 2017 affidavit, “Hammond stated that little Will was not with him when Hammond and another guy did the crime, but him and the police made little Will take the fall.”

 He says Hammond was operating as a “jail-house snitch” with privileges like luxury furnishings in his cell, and freedom to leave to get fast food and have sex. Cops and prosecutors granted such perks to the infamous “Ring of Snitches” in the 1990’s, according to multiple accounts.

“I asked him was he still on the case with Little Will, and why was he still in the police station. . . .He stated to me that he was there in the police station and Little Will was in prison because Little Will tried to stand solid instead of being with the winning team. . . . [He] said the only thing Will had to do was lie like Hammond . . .that because he refused to help the police, he f***ed up.”

VOD has since interviewed this man about the document and found him credible. The man says he had known Hammond since childhood. He Jpayed VOD,  “I am willing to do whatever is necessary to assists you in W.M. liberation. Whatever assistance that I can render please do not hesitate to call on me. I have personal interest in this case knowing that W.M. is innocent of these fabricated charges.” VOD is withholding his name for his protection.


Tearra Dodson, sister of Darrell Ewing, speaks at rally June 4, 2021. She made two huge banners showing the faces of the wrongfully convicted.

Alsham Haleem attended a large rally for wrongfully convicted Wayne County prisoners June 4, 2021 to speak for his friend Willie Merriweather. Hundreds flooded the streets outside the Frank Murphy Hall of “Justice” courthouse in downtown Detroit to demand freedom for their loved ones.


Alsham Haleem FB photo.

“I’ve been knowing Will for about 20 years, Aleem told VOD. “He’s a very humble guy. His spirit and energy have always been that he has made mistakes in his life, and he felt being convicted for something he didn’t do was his punishment. But he feels like enough is enough, he has worked to change his thinking and his life. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Aleem added, “Since he was convicted of second-degree murder, he still goes before the parole board every five years, but they want him to claim ownership of this crime that he didn’t do. It perplexes me that the very officers whose deeds figured in the wrongful convictions of many men exonerated through the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit also were involved in Will’s case, but he has had no action from the CIU in five years.”

Merriweather provided very curt letters from Valerie Newman, Director of the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit, responding to his inquiries through the five years. Each letter tells him that the CIU has not even begun investigation on his case.



Recorder’s Court Judge Dominic Carnovale found Merriweather not guilty of 1st-degree murder, but guilty of three counts of 2nd-degree murder during a bench trial in the deaths of Marlin Underwood, Duuna Summers, and Stacy Gist at 15888 Coyle on March 2, 1987. The grisly killings were allegedly carried out as a drug-related hit. The victims had been tied up before being shot to death. Two infants were in the home at the time.

Court records show that police originally fingered Frederick Hammond as the shooter and chief perpetrator, bringing charges against him in case #87-57858, on three counts of first degree murder, felony murder, and assault with intent to commit murder. Merriweather and five others were charged with conspiracy to commit the last two crimes.

But Hammond agreed to testify against his co-defendants and became the prosecution’s chief witness in case#87-57666, later converted to #87-002623. In that case, Merriweather was charged  with three counts of First Degree or Felony Murder, Assault with Intent to Commit Murder, and felony firearm. Hammond pled out and did not face a jury. Merriweather was convicted of Second-Degree Murder and other charges, while his five co-defendants were acquitted at trial after his testimony that they were not involved, as confirmed by Scott Crump.

Particularly during the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s, pressure on the DPD to close homicide cases QUICKLY was ratcheted up, leading to the number of wrongful convictions exposed so far.

Likely hundreds to thousands of prisoners from Wayne County remain. A private investigator who investigates such cases told VOD that he estimates at least 80 percent of Wayne Co. prisoners convicted during the “Ring of Snitches” era are wrongfully convicted.

The Detroit Free Press reported in an article dated July 13, 1987,  “Detroit’s Solved Homicide Rate Increases.”  The chart in the article says “Cases closed by arrest or ruling that slaying was justifiable.” Clearly an arrest does not constitute actual closure of a case, since it does not always lead to a conviction, and when it does, the individual can still pursue appeals. It appears that DPD members were likely arresting people without regard to the legitimacy of the arrests and whether they had enough evidence to convict.


Framed Dwight Love, Roger Carlos Ray, likely many others

Records show that Gerald Stewart, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Detroit Police Department at the time, DPD Sgt. Donald Stawiasz, the officer in charge (OIC) of the case, and Det. Sgt. Ronald Sanders were the chief players in the macabre plot to a death in prison sentence for  Merriweather.

Stewart was exposed in the notorious case of Dwight Love, #81-006966-01, found guilty of first-degree murder and multiple other crimes in 1981. Detroit Recorders Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis dismissed all charges in 2001 on a motion for relief from judgment filed by Love’s attorney Sarah Hunter. Hunter revealed for the first time DPD’s use of “miscellaneous files” on defendants, withheld from the defense and prosecution.

During her investigation, she held secret meetings with a former FBI agent and DPD Sgt. Ritchie Harrison, both of whom died under questionable circumstances in the years following. She cited their statements in a sworn affidavit (excerpt in box at left).

She said Harrison told her that Commander Gerald Stewart “was a person who resorted to illegal tactics in convicting and framing others by hiding or destroying exculpatory evidence,” among other allegations.

Read full affidavit:

Roger C. Ray

VOD also cited Stewart in the case of  lifer Roger Carlos Ray, who lingers in prison with a case very similar to that of Dwight Love, also dating to 1987, the year of Merriweather’s conviction.

See also: LIFER ROGER CARLOS RAY FIGHTS CONVICTION OF 1987 MURDER; HEARING ON SUPPRESSED EVIDENCE JULY 7, 2022 | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought


 DANNY BURTON: 1987 life conviction vacated 2019 due to beatings, threats, coercion by Sanders. DPD alleged drug trafficking as in Merriweather case. 

Exoneree Danny Burton. Photo: Max Ortiz/DNews

Danny Burton’s first-degree murder conviction was overturned Dec. 6, 2019, citing recantations and statements from four young witnesses that DPD Detective Ronald Sanders had subjected them to threats, brutality, confinement in closets, and other criminal tactics.

The prosecution contended that Burton, Paul Young, David Owens, and murder victim Leonard Ruffin were working for a major crack cocaine ring, delivering crack and picking up money from “crack houses.”

Ruffin, 20, was found fatally shot in an alley in Detroit on May 2, 1987. A day later, police arrested Burton, Young and Owens. Young confessed, implicated the other two and said they were with a 14-year-old girl named Clara Hill at the time.  The judge in Burton’s case, however, barred Young’s confession from evidence because it came out that Sanders had kicked him in the groin and locked him in a room until he confessed.

Clara Hill, Photo The Intercept

Clara Hill ultimately refused to testify against Burton and the other two. She said Detective Sanders locked her in a closet  and kept her there even after she urinated on herself. No adults besides the officers were present during her interrogation.

The three recanting witnesses told similar stories. One said Sanders had paid her $40 to $60 on about 10 occasions, and threatened to take away her children unless she testified for the prosecution. Another said that Sanders threatened to charge her with murder until she implicated the defendants. A third said she was high on crack when Sanders wrote out a statement for her and she signed it without reading it.

Ronald Sanders left DPD in 1993, He is now promoting a book  called “Concerned but Not Consumed,” on Facebook.

In a blurb for the book, he says, “I was a Detroit Police Homicide Detective Sergeant. While working homicide, I was involved in some of the most sensational homicide cases from 1984-1993. One case involved the serial killing of 11 women. This aforementioned serial killer case catapulted me to local notoriety and national fame. This notoriety led me to being photographed and featured in the popular magazine, Vanity Fair. This new found fame also led to the signing of a Hollywood movie contract for the rights, to my police career. I even opted to have ‘Mr. Denzel Washington’ play my part in the prospective movie. All of the previous events occurred in April of 1993. One month later, I suffered a massive and devastating stroke. I went from euphoria and utopia to severe depression and sadness.” Authors Testimony — Concerned Not Consumed, The Story of Ron Sanders

VOD is contacting Sanders for comment on the cases of Willie Merriweather and Danny Burton.


DPD CIO in Merriweather case, also partnered with DPD ET David Pauch in the case of exoneree DESMOND RICKS; Pauch cited in many other cases

Desmond Ricks (third from left) with family members after his exoneration.

In 2017, former Detroit Police Chief James Craig promised to re-open all cases involving  the CIO (Chief Investigative Officer) in Willie Merriweather’s case, Donald Stawiasz, and Detroit Police Crime Lab Firearms Technician David Pauch.

Convicted in 1992, Desmond Ricks  had just been exonerated because it was discovered that the Stawiasz and Pauch knowingly substituted bullets found in victim Gary Bennett’s body with bullets from a gun belonging to Ricks’ mother. Pictures of the bullets from the body had been withheld from the defense, and a state police expert said in a 2015 affidavit that the bullets provided by Detroit police for his court examination were likely not taken from Bennett’s body, because they didn’t have the elements of bullets that had penetrated a body.

Rochelle Riley

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s Conviction Integrity Unit dropped all charges against Ricks and he was exonerated.

Detroit Free Press editorial writer Rochelle Riley wrote in 2017, “It is not enough that Desmond Ricks is free. It is not enough that the state has a mandated way to pay him for the 25 years Michigan’s injustice system took from him. . .Now, Detroit Police Chief James Craig must re-open every case that Pauch and Stawiasz ever touched to determine whether they sent any other innocent people to prison.”

Pros. Kym Worthy and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig /Channel 4 news photo

That editorial led to former Detroit Police Chief James Craig’s pledge to re-open all cases associated with Stawiasz and Pauch, and to the same pledge from Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“We’re not taking this lightly,” Craig said in a news article. “I don’t know how vast this thing would get, but we are committed to finding the truth. “If that means uncovering criminal acts on the part of current or past investigations, we would do that.”

Merriweather’s case has been pending in the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit since January 9th, 2018, Merriweather told VOD.

“My case demonstrates a perfect example of how the CIU has implemented cover-up tactics when cases directly involve Wayne County Assistant Prosecutors having previously indulged with bad cops in illegitimate practices. How the CIU has been able to sweep my case under the rug is really beyond comprehension. They has simply turned a blind eye and reneged on their promises to the public to reopen those cases.”

Valerie Newman shortly after her appt. as Wayne Co. CIU Director, 2017

Merriweather said that in 2019, CIU Director Valerie Newman referred his case to the Western Michigan Cooley Law School Innocence Project without notice to him. On Feb. 9, 2021, the Cooley law School contacted him to say to tell him that his case was outside the case acceptance criteria, since Cooley screens only for “potential DNA or False Forensics Evidence.”  The School returned the case to the CIU remain open for  review.

Merriweather has long contended that the guns in his case were switched, a claim of false forensics evidence.  He said he believes the CIU is taking a hands off approach because he names Wayne County Asst. Prosecutor Douglas Baker and Stawiasz among the parties responsible for his wrongful conviction.

“Clearly the CIU and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office refused to expose facts involving Mr. Merriweather’s case but, instead, covered up those facts as in the same scenario as the Davontae Sanford case.

Raymond Gray with BIll Proctor on his release.

He told VOD that on May 5, 2021, he participated in a teleconference with CIU Director Newman and an Asst. State Attorney General, to make a deposition as a witness on behalf of Raymond Gray, who spent almost 50 years in prison before his release.

The CIU and the Prosecutor’s Office essentially forced Gray to plead guilty to second-degree murder instead of exonerating him. This was despite the existence of two eyewitnesses to the crime, including the actual killer, who swore he was not even there, and a years-long investigation affirming that by then WXYZ Channel 7 top reporter Bill Proctor.

At the court hearing on his release, Newman claimed the “only” witness left opposed his release.

Merriweather said that during the deposition, he attempted to discuss his case with Valerie Newman, but she stalled him out, simply assuring him that she knew about his case but would see him later and for Mr. Merriweather to be more patient. CIU Director, Valerie Newman’s verbal promise to review Mr. Merriweather’s case has been hanging in limbo nearly 5 years!”

“The public should be in a outraged where its top attorney is directly involved in continual cover-ups again, again, again and again!” Merriweather said.

He is also asking attorneys to offer assistance on his case.


Write to:

WILLIE MERRIWEATHER #131483                                                                              Lakeland Correctional Facility                                                                                        141 First St. 
Coldwater, MI 49036


How many lives beyond Desmond Ricks have police helped steal? (



(more to be added)


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Speakers call on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to establish clemency program for broad categories of Michigan prisoners


“I absolutely believe that the criminal justice system in the U.S. is built on the backs of Black and Brown people, and . . .that the single most powerful tool governors have to embed justice in the system—is the clemency power.” — Kate Brown, retired Governor of Oregon

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

June 6, 2023

With the climate shifting in the criminal justice system, where second chances are being looked at across the board. The Michael Thompson Clemency Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the University of Michigan in a collaborative effort put together an event at U of M Law School April 17. The panel consisted of MTCPs own Michael Thompson, former Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, with the moderator for the panel being Hill Harper, famed actor turned activist. The conversation addressed categorical clemency and the dire need for overincarcerated individuals to be released.

Some of the people present in Ann Arbor was there in support of loved ones, friends and constituents. I posed questions to some supporters.

Shawn Harris/MDOC photo

Q: Can you share with VOD readers a little about who you are, and what made you attend the MTCP event?

A: I’m Carlton Turner, a native Detroiter and graduate of Wayne State University. I’m also a former prisoner who served just over 10 yrs., in Michigan’s prison system. I received an invite to attend the event and traveled from Chicago to represent my best friend of 41 years, Shawn Harris, who has served 27 yrs. on a life sentence for a very controversial and questionable conviction.

The Harris family and myself believe him to be actually innocent and are currently networking with organizations & agencies, lawyers & courts to establish his innocence and bring him home. (For more info, see: Shawn Harris | Legal Access Plus.)

Q: Mr. Turner, what was your biggest take away from the event?

A: The social consciousness, the mentality in Michigan is shifting from an over emphasis on extreme punishment for crime to a balance of fair punishment, rehabilitation and a reasonable chance for redemption upon release from prison. The people on the panel at the event, their individual views on the criminal justice system and the need for real criminal justice reform and new sentencing laws, matched the will of the people, the citizens of Michigan. And that made me realistically optimistic that change is on the horizon and that my best friend may find freedom real soon.

Ronnie Waters

Formerly incarcerated juvenile lifer Ronnie Waters, who served 40 years on a LWOP sentence received at age 17, helped the MTCP host the event. Waters, who’s been actively involved in changing the system since his release in 2020 was hired by Safe and Just Michigan and brought on as their new Community Engagement Specialist. He has been active in his community in Pontiac.

Within the first 90 days of his release he was able to meet with Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald to have a discussion with her about other similarly situated juvenile lifers who hadn’t been looked at for resentencing. McDonald made a commitment to review those unheard cases for a determination on their outcomes.

Waters is a licensed lobbyist in Lansing, and has gone before both the Michigan Senate and Michigan House to testify on behalf of juvenile lifers and bring into focus the need for lawmakers to abolish life without parole for juvenile offenders. Recently, Waters has been going into high schools to talk with students about his lived experiences, journey thru prison, and delivering a message for them to stay on a pathway toward success.

Q: Mike McCurdy, would you please describe for VOD how the event went, as for having any real impact on your efforts with the MTCP?

Mike McCurdy

A: Certainly, since I joined Michael Thompson as co-director in the creation of the MTCP, we have worked tirelessly to push for categorical clemency, where many categories are looked at to draw our support. We have several people both men and women who we’re making noise about that have been in prison far too long, and they deserve a second chance. There are incarcerated folks that’s been in there 40 and 50 years serving on virtual death sentences, even though now they’re elderly, sick and incapable of any furtherance in criminality.

Q: Darryl, as a formerly incarcerated lifer who was granted clemency by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2018, can you share with VOD what you believe is needed to see more life sentences commuted?

A: Absolutely. We’re supposed to live in a society where we extend mercy to one another and believe in redemption. Those with life sentences are more likely to come out and contribute something constructive and positive to society. In general, lifers hardly ever reoffend. In fact, they make up less than 1% of the recidivism rate. To that end, a lifer review board should be formed to consider paroling more in this group.

Darryl Woods

In the four years since Darryl Woods’ commutation was granted, he’s been busy helping to reform the criminal justice system. Woods was appointed to the Michigan Appellate Defender Commission by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer soon after he walked out of prison from serving life without the possibility of parole. His activism is evident in the work he’s doing with the youth and seniors in the community.

Additionally, Darryl has become a human bridge between law enforcement and the community. His aim is to work towards finding sensible ways to reduce crime and also foster better engagement with those impacted to help both sides see eye-to-eye with what’s needed to have safer communities. Woods is calling on law enforcement to receive more training which can usher in new ways for the police and the people they serve to communicate better and collectively work on the solution to an obvious larger problem.

This writer talked with Hill Harper during the event and shared some of my aspirations upon my reintegration. We connected and discussed having him, Rep. Amos O’Neal, Ronnie Waters and Darryl Woods come into the Chippewa Correctional Facility and have a serious conversation with the men about how to rethink a prison culture known for negativity and counter productivity, to that of one with substantive and meaningful possibilities, as well as affecting real change.

(Full video of clemency forum above, courtesy Mike McCurdy, MTCP)

The forum was the second event in a roll-out of the national ACLU Redemption Campaign, an effort to encourage presidents and governors to use their clemency powers to reduce mass incarceration and remedy long-standing injustices in the criminal legal system. The first forum was held at Princeton University last year. The Redemption Campaign: Embracing Clemency | American Civil Liberties Union (


Michael Thompson MTCP founder Photo: ZClingenpeel/Mlive

MICHAEL THOMPSON: Every 10 years, we do studies but don’t do nothing about them. Millions of dollars spent and where does it go? You KNOW what the solution is. People who are doing 40, 50 years, that shit hurts, man. If it wasn’t for the Last Prisoner Project, I wouldn’t be out. It is not easy to survive after doing decades behind bars. If anybody has done that amount of time, something has happened to them. I know, because it happened to me. . . .

The person that committed that crime 30 years ago, is not the same person today. You need second chances. But you lock a person up and throw away the key—WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH? SOMEBODY TELL ME!  AMERICA YOU CAN DO BETTER.

There’s people out there hurting, that are getting out of prison—they’re going to turn to the streets [without support]. There’s so many things that Michigan could be doing, but they’re not even trying. Look at these young people and help.

Thompson, now 72, addressed a little-known aspect of clemency releases in Michigan, that those released spend up to four years on parole afterwards:

PAROLE AFTER CLEMENCY–“I walked out after 25 years, but am I really free? My parole officers have been trying to take me off parole, but the parole board doesn’t respond back to their own agents.” THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN! THEY STILL HAVE THEIR FOOT ON MY NECK. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND SOMEBODY NEEDS TO FIX IT.” 

Panelists stand to applaud Jimmy Burden during clemency forum April 17. 2023.

Michael Thompson’s MDOC/OTIS page says he will be off parole on January 28, 2025, following his release on January 28, 2021.

At the forum April 17, moderator Hill Harper noted that Jimmy Burden, one of 22 prisoners granted clemency by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December, 2022, was in attendance. Harper had Burden stand as the audience applauded. Burden is now 68 years old.

“This man was released March 14, 2023 after serving nearly 40 years of a 60-100 year sentence for the theft of $18,” Harper said. “Can you imagine surviving 40 years of incarceration in Michigan prisons for that crime?” Burden is now 68 years old.

VOD–Can you imagine serving another four years on parole?

Jimmy Burden’s OTIS page

Jimmy Burden on Here to Help website.

MDOC records on OTIS (Offender Tracking Information Site), show that Burden is also serving four years on parole, not expected to be released until March 14, 2027, when he, like Thompson, will be 72.

His Supervision Conditions over the 4 years,  noted on OTIS, include: not leaving the state without permission, written Consent to Search Parolee’s Person and/or Property; treatment disclosure to parole agent, complying with drug and alcohol testing ordered by field agent, no association with anyone known to have a felony record, no firearm or weapon ownership or possession, earnest efforts to find and maintain employment, comply with special conditions, written and verbal orders.

Burden has a GOFUNDME page at:  Fundraiser by DAWN SARDIN : JIMMY BURDEN (

KATE BROWN, Former Governor of Oregon, “I absolutely believe that the criminal justice system in the U.S. is built on the backs of Black and Brown people. I absolutely believe that the single most powerful tool governors have to embed justice in the system—is their clemency powers. They must stand up to  public pressure, build a group of allies, willing to speak out into the community.

Kate Brown, Oregon Governor, retired 2022

There is an ethos out there, represented by Fla. Governor DeSantis who wants to return non-unanimous juries to the system. There must be a clear and consistent process to notify victims. Make sure safety plans are in place for those released—housing, work, all the pieces folks need to be successful, with their families and friends.

I wish Michigan Gov. Whitmer the best—I hope she’s listening in. We have to reconstruct racism out of the system. We need to provide families with housing, food, child care, education, including early childhood education. We have chosen as a country not to do this.

ELI SAVIT, Washtenaw County Prosecutor:  “As the prosecutor, I represent ALL people in the community. That means of course taking stock of victims, but also defendants and their families—they’re from your community. We see people and get convictions and sentences, but we’re seeing people at a snapshot in time, when they have done probably the worst thing they are going to do in their lives. When we don’t have safety valves like clemency, commutations, we take away all hope of redemption, for change.

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit

Give them a second chance. That’s the system WORKING. It means people coming home, reunited with loved ones, sons and daughters back with parents. Inter-generational trauma leads to more people hurting people and increasing crime.

Regarding marijuana convictions, it’s pretty simple—it’s not a crime in Michigan anymore. Why are there criminal records for something that is not a crime any more> It’s legal now. Why does it hold people back. People making millions off mj sales. Commutation must take stock of those changes.

The conversation around bail has gotten convoluted and stupid. People are held in jail based on their wealth—how much money do you have. They sit for days , weeks, and months. They lose their jobs and homes. Why should you be able to buy your way out of prison if you’re a murderer that happens to be rich?  Get rid of the damn thing entirely—if you’re dangerous, hold you. If not, release pending trial.”

HILL HARPER, moderator—Actor/activist Hill Harper is known for his advocacy on behalf of Black youth, particularly those who have been imprisoned during decades of the mass incarceration plague that has devastated their communities.  He is also a well-known television and movie actor, and holds a J.D degree from Harvard Law. He is the author of “Letters to An Incarcerated Brother,” which he discusses in the video below.

Hill now running for a seat in the U.S. Senate, subsequent to former U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s retirement, supported by the Progressive Democratic platform in Michigan. He would be Michigan’s first Black U.S. Senator.


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Albert Garrett, 2nd from left at top, recently released at age 60 after 44 yrs; Kenneth Carter, (top l) still incarcerated after 46 years, re-sentenced in 2022, out date in 2026. A VOD review of the status of each of the juvenile lifers depicted above shows that since VOD published the story which featured this collage in March, 2021, most have either been released or have had term of years re-sentencings–thanks to the work of their attorneys from the ACLU and SADO and support from the public. But there are some whose cases have not yet been adjudicated under the US Supreme Court rulings in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016).

Watch this story for a complete list to be published shortly. Original story at:


VOD’s coverage of these Wayne Co. juvenile lifers in 2021 was instrumental in the re-sentencings and releases that came afterwards.                        Please DONATE TO VOD at: CASH APP 313-825-6126 MDianeBukowski


Senate Bills 119-23: No JLWOP if under 19 y/old

House Bills 4160-64: parole if under 19 y/old  

By Ronnie Waters and Jose Burgos

(OP-ED published in Detroit Free Press 4/4/23; photos added by VOD)

26 states ban juvenile life sentences without parole. Will Michigan? (

Jose Burgos (l) and Ronnie Waters (r) with Albert Garrett (center), former juvenile lifer released after 44 years in prison. Photo: Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press/USA Today

Michigan has sentenced more children to life without parole than any other state in the United States. Considering that the U.S. is the only nation that permits this barbaric practice at all, this means that the State of Michigan has condemned more children to die in prison than anywhere else on the globe.

The rest of the world and the majority of U.S. states agree that sentencing children to die in prison is wrong.

It is also wrong that 90% of life without parole sentences  in Michigan since 2012 have been imposed on children of color. It is wrong that Michigan has failed over the past decade to end this sentence despite the fact that polls show  overwhelming support against sentencing children to die in prisons.

But we are happy to report that with the introduction in the Michigan Legislature of Senate Bills 119-23 and House Bills 4160-64, this year our state has an opportunity to right these wrongs.

We both know a little about righting wrongs. 

Families and supporters of juvenile lifers, even including victims, lobbied the Michigan legislature in 2006 to end JLWOP; Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke against the proposed bills.

We are two of the hundreds of children that were once sentenced to die in Michigan prisons, serving a combined 67 years as we were each convicted of first-degree murder. It pains us to say that when we were kids, we were separately responsible for the loss of lives ― lives we can never give back. Our actions are tragic examples of harm committed by children and representations of the ways in which youth with high levels of trauma are more prone to committing serious crimes.

Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller, plaintiffs in Miller v. Alabama/Jackson v. Hobbs ruling against JLWOP. They were each 14 when they sentenced.

Yet today, we stand as shining examples of the ways children can transform their lives. We are remorseful for the harm caused by our crimes. We accept full responsibility for our actions and have asked both God and humankind for forgiveness. Now fully rehabilitated and mature adults, we stand ready to be a positive influence on the communities we serve and society at large.

Brain science tells us that there is plenty of hope and tremendous potential for children to transform over time and ultimately choose a path of moral fortitude. It is up to all of us to ensure our laws and systems extend hope and the possibility of a second chance to those children.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled through Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional, this gave each of us the incredible gift of hope with glimpses of freedom. Recognizing and encouraging our capacity for internal growth, it was the power of hope that made the two of us who we are today.

Some of Michigan’s juvenile lifers waiting for release after 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana which made Miller retroactive:                                      (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis, Raymond Carp, Dakotah Eliason, Henry Hill, Keith Maxey (still in prison 2023), Dontez Tillman, Charles Lewis, Jemal Tipton, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, Jennifer Pruitt, Edward Sanders, David Walton (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).  Collage from VOD’s ongoing coverage of JLWOP in Michigan.

Six years after the court ruled in Miller, Jose was re-sentenced to the 27 years he had served and freed. It took eight years for Ronnie to be re-sentenced and released; he served a total of 40 years. We know firsthand that SB 119-23 and HB 4160-64 is legislation that will offer life-changing hope to those who have demonstrated transformation.

Henry Montgomery was released in 2021 after 57 years in prison since age 17 Photo: EJI

Henry Montgomery Released After 57 Years in Prison for Crime at 17 (

[VOD: Thousands of juvenile lifers had their re-sentencings delayed after Miller until the U.S. Supreme Court followed up with Montgomery v. Louisiana in 2016, ruling that Miller was retroactive. Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy, in league with former Michigan AG , filed briefs to stop the final Montgomery ruling.]

While legislation to release people sent to prison as children may not sound like part of a conventional public safety strategy, our experience is that former juvenile lifers have been integral to preventing harm and improving safety in our communities. As the very people who can understand and resonate with what young people are going through and the vast potential they have to overcome their mistakes and do good, we’ve been working hard to give our young people better futures.

We work at Safe and Just Michigan, an organization that advocates for safe and smart reforms to our criminal justice system and Project Re-Entry at the State Appellate Defender Office which does important work for returning citizens in Michigan by offering guidance before release and wraparound services when people come home.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy opposed state legislation introduced in 2006 to outlaw JLWOP, then joined former Michigan AG Bill Schuette trying to stop Miller v. Alabama becoming retroactive in 2016 with Montgomery v. Louisiana; recommended re-sentencing to JLWOP for most Wayne County juvenile lifers.

We have seen the track record of what former juvenile lifers are capable of doing for the people of Michigan and the countless, creative ways in which we have poured our energy into preventing harm and promoting community wellbeing. We are the track record. And statistically speaking, more than 98.86% of former juvenile lifers age out of crime and lean into a positive future. The juvenile lifers who have been given second chances in Michigan are doing amazing, imaginative things to serve their communities and make them safer and stronger. Giving second chances to more deserving juvenile lifers will give all of Michigan more of this creativity, this safety, and this strength.

Edward Sanders helped organize rally for juvenile lifers still in MDOC in Jan. 2021

Today, we are part of a strong community of individuals who made harmful mistakes as children and who want nothing more than to prevent other children from making the same mistakes we did.  We are all holding each other to account, and we are all there for each other. The lot of us are constantly picking up the phone to see what one another needs – clothes, a phone, a ride home, a refrigerator – you name it. We’re a close-knit family now, tied together by the wrongs we have committed, the debts we are paying to society, but most importantly the people we’re trying to become.

We are filled with hope that this is the year that Michigan bans life sentences for children, joining over half of the country and the rest of the world in recognizing every child’s potential for redemption. Our work across Michigan has demonstrated to us that the people of this state are overwhelmingly prepared to promote redemption and stop sentencing children to life without parole. As two people who will spend the rest of their lives working to right their wrongs, we are optimistic that our own state will put in the work to right a historical wrong and pass SB 119-23/HB 4160-64. We ask the Michigan Legislature to guarantee that we never sentence a child to die in prison again.


URGENT: Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper, now devoting itself entirely to stories related to our PRISON  NATION and POLICE STATE. Funds needed now to pay quarterly web hosting fee of $460.00, due June 19, 2023. VOD will disappear from the web if fee not paid.

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 $460.00, P.O. box fee of $200/yr. and other costs including utility and internet bills, costs for research including court records and internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc.

Please DONATE TO VOD at:

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Thousands of protesters flooded NYC streets and subways  for days after the murder of Jordan Neely by Daniel Penny, at least 2 other white males

We must resist the white supremacist narratives that blame Jordan Neely and absolve white vigilantism and the systemic violence of the state

Jordan Neely was lynched (

By Lara Witt (photos added by VOD)

May 4, 2023


Two other white men restrained Jordan Neely as Daniel Penny choked him to death for 15 minutes; video (linked below) shows him reaching out for help as he struggles for his life, before his arm is grabbed and restrained as he dies. NYC May 1, 2023.

GRAPHIC: Man dies after being put in chokehold on NYC subway (

A white man lynched Jordan Neely on the floor of a subway in New York City on Monday.

He placed Neely in a chokehold for several minutes. Other people held down Neely’s arms and legs as he tried to free himself. But then he stopped moving. A freelance journalist, Juan Alberto Vazquez, filmed the execution and shared the video on his Facebook page.

“‘I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up,’” Neely had yelled in the train, Vazquez reported to The New York Times. “‘I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die.’”


Vazquez also shared that the 30-year-old did not assault or threaten anyone on the train before the man who choked  him to death grabbed him from behind. The police released Neely’s killer after questioning, and they didn’t bring any charges. The coroner has ruled the death a homicide.

City officials, wielding morsels of information like a sword to quell dissent, have shared little to no information about the man who lynched Neely beyond the fact that he is a 24-year-old man. But the police have given the media almost full access to Neely’s medical and so-called “criminal” history.

The most common refrain since Monday has been about Neely’s perceived “mental health issues,” his houselessness, and how he used to busk as Michael Jackson and perform for people to make ends meet. We’ve heard about his mother, Christie Neely’s gruesome murder at the hands of a boyfriend, and how then-18-year-old Neely had to testify at the trial.

These pieces of information—his state-sanctioned, government-fueled, racial capitalist-borne poverty, questions about his mental state, his traumatic past, witnesses sharing about their fear at his “erratic” behavior—are shared almost as if to justify the lynching. But is the state letting you die of hunger, thirst, and lack of shelter not worth yelling about?

Marion, Indiana, Aug. 7, 1930: Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith are lynched,

Make no mistake; a white man lynched Neely because of his Blackness. White supremacy allows white people to function as extensions of settler-colonial state power. Neely was Black, so that was enough reason to lynch him rather than help him.

It was enough for some bystanders to watch without intervention. It was enough for others to hold down his limbs as someone choked the life out of him—the same way white people and their allies have done to thousands of Black people across the country, not with a chokehold and in a subway, but with nooses and trees.

As both prosecutors and the police continue their investigation, the case to arrest the person who lynched Neely rests on the ability to prove that Neely wasn’t a threat to his killer or the witnesses on the train. According to New York state laws, a person can use physical force against another person if they have a “reasonable belief” that it is necessary to defend themselves or others.

But in a country that always perceives Blackness as an inherent threat, that perceives Black men as taller, stronger, and more threatening than they are thanks to the psyche and construct of whiteness itself, that reasonable belief then hinges on a system that, for centuries, defined whiteness as humanity and Blackness as sub-human. Lynching, shooting at, and locking up Black people and systematically letting Black people die through state inaction (and action) within the construct of white supremacy will almost always be acceptable within the U.S.

Since Monday, attempts by right-wing and centrist media outlets to frame Neely’s last moments as deserving of lynching are rooted in a long history of demonizing Black anger as dangerous and a sign of madness.

As Mon M. and Stefanie Lyn Kaufman Mthimkhulu wrote in their op-ed for Prism, the criminalization of “errant behavior, madness, and neurodivergence” is embedded within U.S. settler-colonial history.

They wrote: “This history includes the racialization of mental illness in ways that benefited slavers and settlers, including ‘drapetomania,’ which characterized the desire for enslaved people to run away as mental illness, and made-up census data from 1840, which exaggerated mental illness among free Black people.”

Jordan Neely in high school, photo shown by family atty. at press conference.

What does it say that Neely’s anger at his starvation and thirst was perceived as threatening to his executioner? What does it say of the conditions imposed on a Black, unsheltered, starving person that prison and the conditions of carcerality are preferable to a slow death on the street? Black rage at this country’s injustices, oppressions, and despicable conditions is killed, quelled, and watered down by the state and agents most aligned with its settler-colonial missions. When runaway, rebellious enslaved people protested their conditions, they were tortured and lynched. Neely was protesting the conditions of his existence, and a man lynched him for it.

It is our duty not to impose medical diagnoses and judgments on Neely. Our responsibility, as movement journalists, as people combatting anti-Blackness, state and state-sanctioned murders, lynchings, and violence, is to fight for liberation. We must fight against white supremacist narratives that immediately work overtime to blame the victim of a lynching for his murder. Neely deserved to be saved, he deserved money, and he deserved food and water. Neely deserved warmth, community, and tenderness. Neely deserved to live.

Prism is an independent and nonprofit newsroom led by journalists of color. We report from the ground up and at the intersections of injustice.

Lara Witt, Editorial Director 

Lara is an award-winning writer and editor. Their journalism career started at the Philadelphia CityPaper and the Philadelphia Daily News. Lara also freelanced for national publications like Harper’s… 

AOC Blasts Corporate Media for “Disgusting” Coverage of Killing of Jordan Neely – Truthout

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Video above after Jones first charged in 2018

From Detroit Residents Advancing Civilian Oversight (DRACO) press release

 May 12, 2023

DETROIT  –  As Mother’s Day approaches, 36th District Judge Lynise Bryant today sentenced DPD Sgt. Dewayne Barren Jones to THREE DAYS of probation for disorderly conduct, in his assault on Sheldy Smith in the Detroit Receiving Hospital ER, Aug. 1, 2018.

Smith, a mother, was in a mental health crisis, unclothed and awaiting treatment at the time. Jones punched Smith multiple times (see video above).

Bryant said she will dismiss the charges WITH PREJUDICE if there are no further violations over the Mother’s Day weekend, before May 15.  Jones pled nolo contendere to disorderly conduct to avoid facing a jury for a third trial. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy first charged Jones with felony misconduct in office and misdemeanor assault and battery. After objections from his defense, the felony charge was dropped.

Mainstream media broadly featured videos of the assault at the time. A corporal at the time of the assault, Jones has since been promoted to sergeant despite ongoing protests by Detroit Residents Advancing Civilian Oversight (DRACO), the National Action Network, and others.

“This is an abominable miscarriage of justice,” DRACO founder Scotty Boman reacted. “That a man in uniform can beat a defenseless woman, under color of law, and face no real consequences, sends a message to all police that they won’t face any real accountability if they abuse another defenseless civilian in this manner.

He added, “This is a gut punch to Sheldy Smith who remains a prisoner of the Wayne County Probate Court system, unable to communicate with her family or the public. I hope this tragedy raises public awareness on the need for reforms, in both police accountability, and the rights of people assigned guardians by the court.”

Judge Bryant said the sentence Jones served on the original assault conviction, overturned earlier pending a new trial, was sufficient. Jones served probation with anger management and mental health sensitivity training at the time.

The hearing included Jones, prosecuting attorney Josh Holman, and Jones’ defense attorneys Margaret Rabin and M. Gordner.

For further information:

Scotty Boman, D.R.A.C.O. Founder
Phones: (313) 247-2052 [Voice]  (313) 338-9769 [Text] and Draco.Life

Ashley Smith, Sheldy’s sister
Phone:  (254) 290-7303

Lory Parks, National Action Network Phone: (313) 492-6774





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Nicholas Hudson (r) with granddaughter Aamilah White;  from left, son Nicholas Hudson Jr., son-in-law Aaron White, daughter Ann (Hudson) White, with grandson Aaron White Jr.

Nicholas Hudson testified in 1999 against Sixth Pct. cops indicted during three-year FBI probe into cocaine trafficking by Detroit police

Defense: Hudson convicted of  murder in 2000 after DPD dragnet to get false testimony, despite witnesses who testified he was not at crime scene

Police charged brother with “obstruction of justice” during Hudson’s trial, arrested second brother in front of jury

Case v. Hudson dismissed after first preliminary: mother of Hudson’s child testified Reynolds threatened to charge her, lock her up for life, take child

Cops, WCPO withheld Brady evidence:  ID of man with murder victim at death, likely alternate suspects, other witnesses who did not testify–defense

Detroit police arrested three people per homicide during witness round-ups in the 1990’s, the highest rate in the country

Trial AP Michael J. King advocated sentence reduction, release of notorious jail-house snitch Joe Twilley for false testimony in over 20 other cases

By Diane Bukowski

April 30, 2023 Updated May 12, 2023

DPD Sixth (McGraw) Precinct decades ago. It became HQ for the infamous DPD Gang Squad before closing.

“I’m actually innocent of this crime,” Nicholas Hudson told VOD.

“It’s crazy how they can take a person’s life like this and take their time letting him go…I did everything people asked me to do to show my innocence, including passing a lie detector test, and I’m still sitting in here fighting for my life. To be in prison for 23 years for something you didn’t do is heartbreaking… I feel like the justice system let me down.”

Hudson, now 47, was sentenced to  life without parole in 2000, for the first-degree murder of Ivory “Chip” Harris on Detroit’s near west side. The Wayne County prosecutor pursued the charges after Hudson testified in federal court against cops from Detroit’s Sixth (McGraw) Precinct, 1o of whom were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on charges including conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Dozens of cops from other precincts were indicted in the three-year probe as well.

Atty. Laurel Kelly Young

“Back in 1999, the City of Detroit struggled with police corruption within its police force. Nicholas Hudson. . . testified against the police officers of the 6th precinct who were the target of the federal investigation,” Hudson’s attorney Laurel Kelly Young says in a brief accompanying a motion for relief from judgment filed Dec. 7, 2022. “This was a prosecution that was fraught with corruption. In light of the bad faith of the Detroit Police and/or the prosecution, they obtained a false conviction of a man who is actually innocent.”

She asks for reversal of his conviction, or that the court order an evidentiary hearing to expand the record.

“It’s been very hard and depressing for us all knowing our brother is incarcerated for something he didn’t do,” Hudson’s brother Mark Hudson told VOD.  “All because he  testified against some cops that robbed him. During his trial they even arrested me in front of the jury in a case of mistaken identity. Our family won’t be complete until our brother is back home.”

A second brother, Percy Hudson. told VOD today he was charged with “obstruction of justice” in an assault on the daughter of the key prosecution witness at Hudson’s trial, but the young woman later testified in court in his support. He was charged April 15, 2000 during his brother’s trial after he and other family members testified for Nicholas. The case was finally dismissed on October 30, 2000 according to court records.

Third Circuit Court Judge Mark T. Slavens.

“My dad being in prison serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit has been traumatic,” Nicholas Hudson’s daughter Ann (Hudson) White told VOD. “He’s a very active father and grandfather, so missing birthdays, holidays, graduations, seeing the birthing of his grandchildren, and even my wedding are all things that me and my family were robbed of. We can never get those moments back. The prison system doesn’t make visiting a pleasant experience for us at all. We are treated like criminals as well, only able to show affection in the beginning of our visit and at the end.”

(UPDATED): Hudson is now awaiting a hearing in front of 3rd Circuit Court Judge Mark T. Slavens on his motion for relief, which tells a harrowing story of witness round-ups, police coercion, and threats to charge witnesses and take their children. His case was recently re-assigned from the docket of Judge Bradley Cobb. A “post-conviction” event is posted for June 28, 2023 on Judge Slavens’ docket.

It also lays out Brady v. Maryland violations, including hiding the ID’s of eyewitnesses, a likely suspect, and a police report by a woman who lived with the murder victim.  She told police the day after the murder that a different man had an ongoing conflict with Harris and was a likely suspect, but police never investigated him. See defense brief and exhibits linked below story.

The Wayne Co. Prosecutor charged that Hudson murdered Ivory “Chip” Harris Aug. 19, 1999, shooting him outside 14555 Stout on the city’s west side, allegedly because Hudson didn’t want drug dealers on his street.

Harris was killed just after he allegedly robbed Janet Inge, who lived at that address and was a self-admitted crack addict. They said he took a TV set to recoup $100 he gave her to let him sell drugs from the house. Police reported that they found the TV close to his body  outside the house.

The trial started April 11, 200o, after charges were dismissed during Hudson’s  first preliminary exam Nov. 11, 1999 due to a recantation by the mother of Hudson’s child, Kiahrenise Ransburg.

The only civilian witness at the exam, Ransburg testified she lied about Hudson to police after she was arrested and held along with his brothers, father, and others during witness round-ups for the case. She said Officer Lonze Reynolds threatened to charge her in the Harris murder, and take her 4-year-old child.

The DPD conducted rampant and unconstitutional witness dragnets throughout  the 1990’s. They held  those arrested in DPD HQ lock-ups for days, to obtain the testimony they desired.

In a 2007 deposition for the case of Moore v. City of Detroit, then DPD Det. Joann Kinney endorsed such round-ups. She claimed “probable cause” was the DPD’s BELIEF that a person MAY be involved in the crime, and “detention” was not the same as “arrest.” Regarding detained witnesses, she said “we may set them aside until they’re willing to cooperate.” Kinney has worked for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy since 2012 after leaving DPD.


The Detroit Free Press reported in 2001 that the DPD arrested far more people during murder investigations than any other city in the country, three for every case. (The Freep also reported that in 1999, Detroit police had the highest rate of killing civilians in the U.S.)

The witness dragnets were one cause of the DOJ’s 11-year oversight of the DPD, which concluded in 2013 with a consent decree. Among other issues,  the decree said DPD must “require written supervisory review of arrests for probable cause, as well as prohibit the detention or conveyance of an individual without reasonable suspicion, probable cause or consent from the individual.”

Officers involved in Hudson’s case  ardently engaged in such witness round-ups, coercion, and threats in other cases as well, according to Hudson’s motion for relief from judgment. (See box at left.)


Janet Inge, a self-admitted crack cocaine addict who is now deceased, was the Prosecution’s chief “eyewitness” at Hudson’s trial. Attachments to the defense brief include four contradictory statements she gave to police. Her live-in boyfriend, who told police he had put a stop to Harris’ drug sales at the house, said Inge could not have seen the shooting.

In a notarized affidavit signed in 2013, he swore that she was with him inside the house at the time, high on crack, and often told lies. He said the two first heard gunshots outside, and then a man came to their door to say there was a body on the street. He said police had coerced him to testify against Hudson. He said he testified only that he heard Inge say that she saw Hudson shoot Harris, but was never asked whether that was possible. (See affidavit below story.)

TV set police found near Ivory Harris’ body after he was killed.

Hudson’s brother Mark Hudson and five others testified at his trial that he was with them at the time Harris was killed, not at the scene of the crime. Hudson lived down the street on Stout, but the alibi witnesses said they and Hudson drove back to his house from other locations after police had already cordoned off the scene at 14555 Stout after Harris was killed.

Roy Collier and his cousin Mario Collier said they rode in the car with Ivory Harris to the house at 14555 Stout, and stayed outside while Harris went inside with another man, who police never identified, a violation of Brady V. Maryland. No statement from the other man was obtained and/or included in Hudson’s file.

Neither cousin could identify Hudson in a police photo line-up Nov. 11, 1999. Roy Collier later said Det. Reynolds coerced him into testifying against Hudson.

Evidence technician drawings from scene of Ivory Harris murder.

DPD Sgt. Henry Ellis, first on the scene, wrote, “Writer believes Mr Blue and Ms Inge are good suspects because the compl took their tv. If that doesn’t work out, Mr Gardner might need a second look because the compl was trying to set up a dope house in his area.”

“Gardner” was the man police said controlled drug trafficking in the area. Police claimed Hudson killed Harris because he didn’t want drug sales on the street where he lived.

Young’s brief on behalf of Hudson theorizes that the fourth man in the car with Ivory Harris and the Collier cousins when they went to 14555 Stout address actually shot Harris after discovering that Harris “had botched his task of expanding their drug distribution to Stout St.”

“The police had investigated (name redacted) in conjunction with this case and shared none of it with the defense,” the brief says. “It appears from the suppressed documents that Ivory Harris and (name redacted) had been beefing for years. . . .(Name redacted) was intentionally suppressed by the 6th precinct to guarantee Nicholas Hudson’s conviction in retribution for Nicholas Hudson testifying in federal court regarding corruption in the 6th Precinct.”


VOD has separately found that Hudson’s trial AP Michael J. King also represented the prosecution on behalf of notorious jail-house snitch Joe Twilley on July 29, 1994, at his re-sentencing hearing in front of Judge John Shamo. Shamo reduced Twilley’s sentence on other charges to time served after testimony from Detroit cop Dale Collins who said he aided police in at least 20 other cases.

Testimony from Twilley and Collins was instrumental in the cases of multiple Wayne County defendants whose convictions were later overturned, including those Wayne County’s Conviction Integrity Unit says it exonerated.

Twilley’s role and that of other such informants was detailed in a series of articles in Truth Out magazine, featuring what the publication called “The Ring of Snitches.” One expert estimates that up to 80% of Wayne Co. convictions in the 90’s were false. Ring of Snitches: How Detroit Police Slapped False Murder Convictions on Young Black Men – Truthout.



Nicholas Hudson visits with his granddaughter Aamilah, born since his imprisonmentPhoto: Ann (Hudson) White

The impact of having a loved one wrongfully incarcerated is very hard on a person mentally, emotionally, physically. The fact that my brother has been locked up for over 20 plus years has been one of the hardest things to endure. Nicholas has missed out on so many life events and lost close family and friends all because of the same justice system that is supposed to give fair and equal justice.

It allowed criminal manipulation and dishonesty to control the narrative of my brother’s life. His case is one of many where lies, coercion and even wrongful handling of evidence cost my brother his freedom.

Nicholas Hudson with grandkids Aamilah and Aaron White, Jr. Photo: Ann (Hudson) White

Our family has suffered so much by Nicholas being locked up and not being able to give much needed support to us especially to me during my bouts with mental illness, feeling as if I’ve let him down for not being capable of fighting for true justice for him about a crime that I as well as the judicial system knows that he didn’t commit. No one should have to go through birthdays, graduations, weddings and yes, even funerals while fighting for the release of a loved one. I see how easy it is to be locked up through my brother’s painful experience yet it’s a hard and long struggle. The laws that we have should be changed and updated to make it just as easy to be free when you’re wrongfully convicted of a crime that you didn’t commit.

The loss of freedom, the inability to get a job, or other things that are taken from you once you’ve been labeled a convicted felon and you’re eventually exonerated, you still wear that layer of being called a criminal. My brother Nicholas Hudson and the many more men and women who have been placed in a prison or jail for cooked up charges or false identification and so many other things need a system to figure out a way to fight just as hard to get them out as they fought to put them behind bars. 


Brief and exhibits:  and

Joann Kinney Deposition:

Witness affidavit by man with chief prosecution witness at time of murder

Transcript of Joe Twilley Resentencing:


URGENT: Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper, now devoting itself entirely to stories related to our PRISON NATION and POLICE STATE. Funds needed now to pay quarterly web hosting fee of $460.00, due May 19, 2023. VOD will disappear from the web if fee not paid.

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 $460.00, P.O. box fee of $200/yr. and other costs including utility and internet bills, costs for research including court records and internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc.

Please DONATE TO VOD at:

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While working with a CIU can provide hope, there are risks.

Attorneys who work in a CIU are not defense lawyers.

CIU attorneys are still prosecutors, and working with them still carries great risks for incarcerated people, especially those without lawyers.

Nothing you say in person or in writing to a CIU lawyer is confidential. 

CIU could uncover information that opens the applicant or their friends and family members up to prosecution for new crimes or jeopardizes the applicant’s options for parole and probation

VOD discovered this article from the Criminal Legal News while investigating issues about the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit’s practices with several defendants whose cases have been covered in VOD. Reprinted with photos added by VOD.

By Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Kia Hall Hayes

MARCH 15, 2022

What You Need to Know Before Contacting a Conviction Integrity Unit | Criminal Legal News

Over the past several years, more and more prosecutors have created conviction integrity units (“CIUs”), or conviction review units (“CRUs”), in their offices. While still primarily used in offices serving bigger cities, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, or Detroit, many offices in smaller jurisdictions are also developing processes to review wrongful conviction claims. Working with a CIU or CRU can have tremendous benefits for convicted individuals, but working with a unit carries very real risks, especially for someone working without an attorney. In the best case, the CIU could agree the applicant’s wrongful conviction claim merits relief and support vacating the conviction rather than fighting against the petition in court.

But the CIU could also uncover information that opens the applicant or their friends and family members up to prosecution for new crimes or even jeopardizes the applicant’s options for parole and probation. For these reasons, incarcerated individuals applying to CIUs must understand the benefits and risks of working with a CIU before applying to one.

A CIU is a special unit within a state or county prosecutors’ office dedicated to reviewing claims of wrongful convictions from people convicted by that office. No state or county requires that a prosecutor’s office has a CIU. It is entirely within the elected or head prosecutor’s discretion to decide whether to have a unit or not and how that unit will run. There is no right to have a case reviewed by the unit, and any decision the DAs office makes about an application can’t be appealed.

The work CIUs do goes beyond investigating individual claims of wrongful conviction. Most CIUs are involved in creating policies for their offices and conducting trainings on the factors that lead to wrongful convictions such as faulty forensics, false confessions, or eyewitnesses led through a flawed identification procedure to make an incorrect identification. But at the center of the units’ operations is investigating wrongful convictions.

The types of cases CIUs investigate can vary from office to office. Some will only investigate cases where the applicant claims they had no involvement in the underlying crime (usually referred to as “actual” or “factual” innocence). Most will also investigate cases where the applicant claims their conviction “lacks integrity” due to procedural or constitutional violations.


Read Wayne County procedures published on their website Conviction Integrity Unit | Prosecutor (


Excerpt: Is CIU part of the appellate/post-conviction process provided by Michigan law? No. There are important differences between a review by CIU and any appellate filings. CIU was not created by statute, its investigations are not part of a court action, and it is not governed by court rules of procedure. CIU does not focus on determining whether important constitutional rights were violated, it focuses on determining whether an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted.  (r) Wayne Co. CIU Director Valerie Newman at 2016 prayer breakfast for Davontae Sanford.

REQUEST FOR STAY ON COURT PRODEEDINGS RE: INNOCENCE CLAIMS:        VOD has found this language recently included on an order in one pending case


These units usually have at least one staff attorney and often an investigator so they can conduct an independent investigation. During its investigation phase, a CIU often will take many steps to conduct a full re-investigation of a case.

That could mean interviewing witnesses, finding witnesses who never testified at trial, conducting forensic or scientific testing of relevant evidence, reviewing police or other government files, and sharing those files with an applicant’s attorney. Because these investigations occur outside the regular proceedings of the judicial system, prosecutors aren’t focused on statutory or procedural issues. Rather, the purpose of the investigation is to determine whether the person convicted is the person who committed the crime.

If evidence developed or uncovered during the investigation proves the applicant’s innocence—or even if the evidence undermines the conviction to the point the prosecutors no longer have faith in it—the CIU can support the applicant’s request for post-conviction relief. Even if the evidence doesn’t prove the applicant’s innocence, CIUs can still work with an applicant’s counsel to negotiate a lower sentence or even reduced charges.

The goal of a well-functioning CIU is to review cases as objectively as possible, without considering what legal arguments may have been made and rejected before. Where a DA’s office may have taken a position that a given conviction should stand, a CIU looks at the case in a different light by focusing on the facts, not the law or procedural defenses. Often—61 times in 2020 alone those CIUs support a petition for vacatur (reversing a conviction) in court.


Davontae Sanford was 14 when charged and convicted of 4 murders he did not commit. The Wayne Co. Prosecutor and the Detroit Police knew from eyewitness testimony the date of the crime in 2007 that he was not the killer, according to a 110 pp. Michigan State Police Report. Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy kept Davontae in an adult prison for nine years although the real killer confessed just after Sanford was sentenced. To this day, Worthy denies Sanford is innocent. 

Most people writing to CIUs are not represented by counsel. While some CIUs will not work with people who do not have an attorney representing them, many will. Indeed, for some units, pro se applications for assistance make up well over 70% of the cases under review.

But, while working with a CIU can provide hope, there are risks. People reaching out to a CIU need to know how that unit operates and be aware of not inadvertently waiving otherwise protected information.

First and foremost, attorneys who work in a CIU are not defense lawyers.

They do not, and never will, represent someone who has written to them. They are prosecutors who investigate wrongful conviction claims, and they do not provide legal advice to people who have written to them.

It can be used against you for the case being reviewed or even for other criminal activity for which you were never prosecuted. In addition, in many states anything that is in a prosecutor’s file is subject to right to know or freedom of information laws. That means what you provide to a CIU can end up in the hands of a reporter or anyone else whose request to see the file is granted. Once you provide information to a CIU you can’t take it back.

As mentioned above, the CIU will conduct an investigation if they choose to review your case. An investigation means they will contact every person in the case or who has information about the crime. That could include your family members or loved ones.


To conduct a thorough investigation, the CIU may want to talk to the attorneys who represented you at trial, on appeal, or in post-conviction proceedings. The CIU may also want to review your past attorneys’ files and the files of any attorney or innocence organization currently representing you or with whom you’re working.

You should understand your attorneys are required by law to keep confidential any information they learned about your case from representing you—including the contents of their files. They cannot share their knowledge of your case or their files with the CIU without your permission. You can choose to allow your attorneys to share this information if you want to.

If a CIU requires you to waive attorney-client privilege to have your case reviewed, you should be very cautious.

Also, any communication between you and your attorneys—letters, conversations, messages, and so on—about the case is considered a privileged communication the attorney cannot reveal to the CIU without your permission.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy (seated) with Atty. Gabi Silver (l) and CIU head Valerie Newman (r) behind her, during announcement of Richard Phillips’ exoneration March 25, 2018

You may not know all the information your former or present attorneys have in their files; they may have information linking you or people you know to a crime. You may need to decide if you will permit your past and any current attorneys to share what they know about the case, their communications to you and from you, and their case files with the CIU. In making that decision, you may want to consult with a lawyer who is not part of the CIU.

While the CIU may begin reviewing your application even if you decide not to share   or files with the CIU, at some point they may need to speak with your lawyers. The CIU may advise you that their investigation cannot be completed and a decision cannot be made on your claim without speaking with your past attorneys and/or reviewing their case files. At that point, you will need to decide if you are willing to waive your rights and give your past lawyers permission to share their information, case files, and communications with you to the CIU.

Families demand FREE THEM ALL at Wrongful Conviction Rally June 4, 2021 at Detroit FMHJ Courthouse

Many times, when convicted individuals write to a prosecutor’s CIU, they send long letters talking about their prosecution, conviction, and appeal. But these narratives often have information which would otherwise be privileged: information about the legal strategy, things your lawyer said, and even why the person decided not to testify at trial are all topics that are privileged and that don’t have to be disclosed. If you reach out to a CIU or are completing paperwork for them, make sure to keep the communication focused solely on the facts of the case or what happened. Talking about anything related to conversations you had with your attorney or decisions you made after consulting with them could inadvertently waive those privileges going forward—even without you realizing you’ve done it.


The increase of CIU units nationwide has given wrongly-convicted individuals another potential avenue to win their freedom. But CIUs vary greatly in the cases they accept and in the way that they operate. CIU’s review cases from a more objective viewpoint than the appellate unit of DAs offices, but CIU attorneys are still prosecutors, and working with them still carries great risks for incarcerated people, especially those without lawyers. Before reaching out to a CIU for help, incarcerated people need to understand how the CIU in their jurisdiction is run, and how working with them could potentially help or hurt their case. 

Marissa Boyers Bluestine is an Assistant Director of the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She joined the Quattrone Center after a decade leading the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, where she spearheaded the reversal of 14 wrongful convictions.

Kia Hall Hayes joined the Quattrone Center after working for eight years as a staff attorney at the Innocence Project New Orleans, where she helped secure the release of six individuals who served a total of 146 years for crimes they did not commit.

Gov’t. Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent
The Role of Prosecutors, Police and Other Law Enforcement – Nat’l Registry of Exonerations


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 2016 Conviction based on Mistaken Witness ID, False/ Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense — NRE

Michigan Innocence Clinic researched case, presented to newly-formed Macomb County ‘Conviction Integrity Unit’

Store clerk who testified as eyewitness positively ID’s Howell, testimony called into question due to police coercion, cross-racial issue, et. al.

(Videos, photos added by Voice of Detroit.)

From left: Student-attorneys Eugene Lee and Lauren Jung, Mack Howell, student-attorney Rob Harrington, and Dave Moran, co-director of Michigan Innocence Clinic (Photo: Michigan Innocence Clinic)

By Maurice Possley

March 28, 2023 

Mack Howell – National Registry of Exonerations (

Mack Howell (center) with nephew Dwayne Howell at right during press conference on release.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on April 3, 2014, 46-year-old Roselyn Gaston was the only employee on duty at the 7-Eleven convenience store at 10 Mile and Kelly Roads in Eastpointe, Michigan, when a man dressed in black and a ski mask covering all but his eyes burst through the front door. The man was holding a cardboard Frappuccino box in one hand which he said was covering a gun.
“Give me the money!” he shouted. “I don’t want to hurt you. I have a gun. Give me the money under the drawer.”

Gaston, who had been stacking coffee cups and lids, opened the cash register and pulled out the drawer to show that there was no money underneath the drawer. She said the man grabbed money from the drawer and ran out the front door. Gaston pressed a silent alarm and called 911.

Gaston, who was white, told police that the robber was a Black man, about 6 feet tall and weighing 180 pounds.

Among the officers who responded was Brian Dobrzycki, from the nearby Roseville police department. Dobrzycki was close by on patrol with his German Shepherd scent dog, Cato. Dobrzycki brought the dog into the store where a $20 bill had apparently been dropped by the robber. The dog circled around and was not given anything the robber had handled. The dog started tracking outside the front door which had been trafficked by police, the robber and perhaps customers.

A Roseville PD K-9 dog was used to ID ‘skin raft’ particles at 7-11 store

Several feet from the front door, next to a garbage can, the dog alerted to a paper bag. Inside the bag was a nearly empty Milwaukee’s Finest beer can with a drinking straw inserted into the opening. The dog then continued on, heading to the rear of the store where it stopped next to a concrete wall.

About 7 a.m., the owner of the 7-Eleven, Fazal Abbas, arrived. He viewed store surveillance video from the inside of the store, and created a compact disc of the 86-seconds from the entry to the exit of the robber. He turned that disc over to the police. Abbas also viewed video from an exterior camera, but did not save it, and a week later it was taped over.

Eastpointe police detective Matthew Hambright sent the paper sack, beer can and straw to the Michigan State police crime lab. A fingerprint on the beer can was deemed suitable for comparison. DNA testing was conducted on the beer can. In June, 2014, the profile of DNA found on the lip of the beer can was submitted to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and was identified as that of 53-year-old Mack Howell. The DNA profile of a female was found on the straw and could not be linked to anyone. Howell was excluded as the source of the fingerprint on the beer can.

Based on the DNA finding, Howell became the primary suspect, even though he was 5’6” tall and weighed 213 pounds.

‘Suggestive line-up’ conducted by Eastpointe P.O. Matthew Hambright 

Detective Hambright would later testify that he did a frame by frame analysis of the interior store video to capture the moment when the robber left the 7-Eleven, and passed by a measuring stick next to the front door designed to help clerks assess the height of robbers.

Hambright said he compared his own height of 6’4” to the measuring stick, and determined that it was an accurate gauge. He said that based on the surveillance video, the robber was 5’6” tall. Hambright called Gaston and asked if she could be wrong about the height and weight. Hambright later testified that she said that the robber was a bit taller than her and she was 5’4 1/2 inches tall.

On September 19, 2014, Hambright took a photographic lineup to Gaston’s home. This lineup would later be criticized as suggestive. Four of the six photographs showed Black men with their eyes half-closed. The other two – Howell, who was in the #1 position, and another Black man, who was in the #5 position – had brighter eyes.

After looking at the photographs, Gaston selected #5, who was a filler. Hambright asked, “Are you sure?” Gaston said she was not. Hambright asked her to look again. Gaston used her fingers to cover up all of the faces of the individuals in the lineup so that only their eyes were visible. She then selected Howell, and said she was 100 percent sure that he was he robber.

Nearly a year later, on August 7, 2015, Howell was arrested. During questioning, he denied being involved in the robbery. He was charged with armed robbery.

At a preliminary hearing in September 2015, Gaston, who was 5’4” tall, changed her description of the robber. She said the robber was 5’8” tall and had a “medium build.” She said she was 100 percent certain of her identification of Howell.

Trial Judge Edward Servitto

On August 23, 2016, Howell went to trial in Macomb County Circuit Court. Gaston testified and again said she was 100 percent sure that Howell was the robber. She said she would “never forget” the robber’s eyes.

Abbas, the owner of the 7-Eleven, testified that he viewed the surveillance video of the exterior of the store. He said the robber stopped briefly at the dumpsters and then continued to the rear of the property. He said he did not provide the video to the police because no one asked him for it. He also said the video quality was not good enough to identify the robber.

Dobrzycki testified about how he and his “canine partner,” Cato, came to the scene. He said he brought the dog into the store where the dog “scented” into the area. Asked by the prosecutor, Sunita Doddamani, to explain, Dobrzycki said, “People drop skin rafts when they are doing something; when their adrenaline is going, they drop more skin rafts [than] a normal person that walks around.” “What’s a skin raft?” Doddamani asked.

Trial AP Sunita Doddamani

“It’s skin follicles that actually fall that you can’t even see from your body,” Dobrzycki said. “The skin rafts are falling from everyone’s body on an everyday basis, and when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to, you’re dropping more than…a normal person.”

Howell’s defense attorney, Arlene Woods, objected, arguing that Dobrzycki was not qualified to testify about skin droppings. Judge Edward Servitto Jr. agreed. “Under certain circumstances he’s not qualified to say that more droppings are going to occur under certain circumstances, but otherwise there are droppings from the human body, the dog’s olfactory has the ability to pick up those rafts,” the judge said.

Dobrzycki testified that the dog was allowed to roam inside the store where the robbery occurred and then was taken to the front door. Tracking began just outside the front door, Dobrzycki said. “He begins tracking…and he, what we call downs or alerts on a beverage container that’s right outside the front door.”

“What do you mean to down and alert?” Doddamani asked.

“He is basically telling me that [it] has fresh human odor and that’s part of the track,” Dobrzycki testified. The dog will actually lie down with its front paws in front of the alerted item, Dobrzycki said. “He’ll just down until we tell him to begin to track again from that item.” Continue reading

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Ricardo Ferrell, VOD field editor

Invite from Ricardo Ferrell, Voice of Detroit Field Editor

You are cordially invited to join the ACLU, The U of M Sentence Commutation Project and the Michael Thompson Clemency Project for a forum with prominent clemency experts to discuss actionable solutions to mass incarceration in Michigan’s Department of Corrections.

The panel will be moderated by Hill Harper and include former Governor of Oregon Kate Brown, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, and winner of the ACLU Award for Leadership in Clemency Michael Thompson.

We will be unveiling a “Clemency Menu” with recommendations to the Whitmer Administration for parameters around which to base a largescale statewide clemency initiative. The Clemency Menu is a joint creation of the Michael Thompson Clemency Project, The ACLU and the U of M Sentence Commutation Project.

Forum is April 17 at U of M Law School, Hutchins Hall, from 5-6:30 to be followed by reception.  Click here to preregister


Mike McCurdy and Marshall Clabeaux, Co-Directors Michael Thompson Clemency Project

Michael Thompson Clemency Project
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“My expert witness was prohibited from presenting a clinical diagnosis that I was a battered woman who had PTSD as a result of long term battering. That evidence was critical to my entire defense. The jury never heard it because of the restrictions of People v. Christel.” — Nancy Seaman


Tens of thousands of battered women like Seaman remain in prison

Seaman still at Women’s Huron Valley Prison, where incarcerated women subjected to sexual abuse, according to fired employees

Three women have allegedly killed themselves at WHVP in the last 3 years, questions remain

Ricardo Ferrell/Kelle Lynn


By Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor

With comments from Kelle Lynn, Director,  Justice Through Storytelling (JTS) Justice Thru Storytelling (

March 23, 2023

In 2018, this writer became familiar with the case of Nancy Seaman, the now 70-year-old former Farmington Hills school teacher who was convicted in 2004 of killing her abusive husband Robert Seaman. For nearly twenty years since her incarceration, Nancy Seaman has spoken out about decades of domestic abuse by her late husband.

Nancy Seaman

In an article previously written, I addressed the years of abuse that Seaman experienced and endured. The title: “Bout With Domestic Abuse: A Woman Who Survived” brings to light the physical and emotional abuse so many victims are subjected to. Sadly, there’s countless women who weren’t able to make it out and didn’t survive.

In the last half-century of being in and out of the judicial system, I have never seen any defendant receive the wide range of support that Nancy Seaman has garnered which included an unusual move by the late Oakland County Circuit Judge Jack McDonald, who became Seaman’s most staunch supporter. Not only did Judge McDonald have an issue with the verdict by the jury, he utilized his judicial powers to change the First Degree Murder Conviction to Second Degree Murder. Quite a gutsy move by a jurist of the court.

Nancy Seaman and son celebrate birthday

Recently, I received an updated account from Ms. Seaman which speaks to her truth about the injustices during the highly publicized jury trial, where she stands in post-conviction, and how advocates are calling for her release through clemency.

“The prosecutor, who is not an expert witness, is technically not bound by those same limitations on expert witness testimony that the defense expert faces,” Ms. Seaman told me. “Prosecutors take advantage of that fact as happened in my case. My defense expert witness was prohibited from presenting a clinical diagnosis that I was a battered woman who had PTSD as a result of long term battering. That evidence was critical to my entire defense. The jury never heard it because of the restrictions of People v. Christel.” People v. Christel :: 1995 :: Michigan Supreme Court Decisions :: Michigan Case Law :: Michigan Law :: US Law :: Justia

Oakland Co. 6th Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca, formerly AP Gorcyca

“The prosecutor . . . . stood before the jury, and announced that she was Head of the Domestic Violence Unit in Oakland County,” Ms. Seaman continued.

“She used the prestige of that office to unequivocally state that the woman on trial is not a battered woman. She then used every myth, stereotype, and misconception about battered women to discredit not only my claim that I was a battered woman, but it discredited the minimal amount of general Battered Woman’s Syndrome (BWS) and PTSD syndrome testimony that my experts were allowed, by state law, to present. The jury, unaware of the limitations on expert testimony, waited for the defense to counter the prosecution’s claims. When that did not happen due to the limitations on the testimony of the experts, the jurors were left to presume what the prosecutor said was true. In their eyes, the prosecutor was an expert.”

The Assistant Prosecutor was  Lisa Ortlieb-Gorcyca, now Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court Judge Lisa Gorcyca. On Dec. 14, 2015, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission filed (JTC) filed a formal ethics complaint against Judge Gorcyca. Their recommendation for public censure was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2017. The complaint involved a custody case proceeding during which she remanded three minor siblings to to juvenile detention for refusing to have lunch with their father. She said they would not be eligible for review of her order until they were 18 years old.  After widespread publicity, the children were released after two weeks.

Michael Thompson (l), with Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

Seaman has piqued the interest and caught the attention of the Michael Thompson Clemency Project (MTCP). In a recent board meeting in Lansing, Mike McCurdy, Co-Director of the MTCP, suggested their team make an assessment of Nancy’s situation and add her to likely new clients to advocate and push for the granting of commutation by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  Prison Reform | Michael Thompson Clemency Project (

“In 2016, I met Nancy Seaman’s trial Judge John Jack McDonald, who was retired from the bench,” Kelle Lynn, Director of Justice Through  Storytelling, said. “I sat in his home for two hours, listening to him talk about Nancy, with a stack of documents sitting at the foot of his chair. He was sad about the outcome and said he never got over the fact that Nancy would spend the rest of her life in prison. He said it affected him so much that he risked his re-election as a judge when he decided to overturn the verdict from first degree to second.”

Lynn said she filmed Judge Macdonald at his home a few months later.

The late 6th Circuit Judge John Jack McDonald.

“He told me then,  that had the jury heard more from nationwide domestic violence expert Dr. Lenore Walker, he felt confident they would have never agreed to life in prison. The letter he read from Dr. Walker after the trial gave him a profound understanding of the dynamics of intimate partner violence regarding Nancy’s case. He said he wished the jurors could have been presented with that same information during the trial.”

Lynn added, “Judge McDonald said everyone who testified on Nancy’s behalf said she was a kind and peaceful woman. However, almost everyone described her husband, Bob, as a man whose rage was always near the surface. He showed me a stack of letters he had received after the trial. One letter from Bob’s childhood schoolmate said Bob had been a bully all through school and believed he bullied Nancy as well. Judge McDonald was willing to do whatever it took to advocate for her release. He was on national news and agreed to every interview. He didn’t care about what people thought – he followed his gut instinct.”

Meeting with Former Parole Board Chairperson Michael Eagen

Lynn said that in November 2018,  she, Judge McDonald, and prison psychologist Nels Thompson met with Michigan Parole Board Chairperson Michael Eagen.

Michael Eagen, Retired Chair, Michigan Parole Board

“Nels Thompson was a prison psychologist who worked for the MDOC for 18 years,” Lynn said. “He developed a domestic violence program and counseled incarcerated women. That’s how he knew Nancy and concluded she wasn’t a criminal – she was another woman behind bars for defending her life.

“They both pled with Mr. Eagen asking him to recommend that then Governor Rick Snyder grant her commutation. Judge McDonald and Nels Thompson were more familiar with the facts of Nancy’s case than Mr. Eagen, so why wouldn’t he take their pleas seriously? Judge McDonald told Mr. Eagen he hoped to witness her release before he died. Unfortunately, he didn’t see that happen before he passed in August 2019.”

Recently, Kelle Lynn and MTCP co-director Mike McCurdy sent a powerful letter to State Senators Stephanie Chang and Jeff Irwin, where they urged both senators to encourage the Parole Board to reconsider Nancy’s commutation application.

Lynn added, “In October 2021, I sent a letter to all the jurors in Nancy’s 2004 trial, which included a study of Nancy’s case written by a domestic violence expert at Michigan State University. Within a few days, one male juror called me, and we spoke for two hours. He said he went through the detailed report with a fine-tooth comb. The juror was upset that none of the information about Nancy’s trauma from years of abuse and how it affected her actions was presented at trial. As a result, he did a complete turnaround from being quoted in the Detroit Free Press in 2005 as wanting Nancy to serve a life sentence to signing an affidavit supporting her immediate release.

“I wrote Brian Shipman, the chairman of the Parole Board. I asked him if the Parole Board would try something different and consider consulting with any of the following people to weigh in on Nancy’s commutation application before denying it again

“Like many women survivors, Nancy’s guilty of not leaving earlier, staying silent, and not calling the police more. In my conversation with prosecutors, they have admitted that these women are short on evidence, and that’s what they base their case on. Most people would have no idea what the court is looking for in terms of evidence. Yet, for some reason, the courts and society point the finger at these women and blame them all the way to prison.”

In August 2005, Judge McDonald ordered that Seaman be resentenced to second degree murder, but the prosecution appealed that order and it was overturned. Then in 2010, U.S. Eastern District Court Federal Judge Bernard Friedman overturned Seaman’s conviction, saying the prosecution failed to prove premeditation and deliberation, and that, combined with ineffective assistance of counsel and the omission of critical BWS evidence denied her a fair trial. He granted her habeas petition and ordered either a new trial or immediate release. The prosecutor again appealed.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s grant of a new trial, largely on technical grounds, and ordered Judge Friedman to dismiss the appeal, largely on technical grounds. See Sixth Circuit ruling at USCOURTS-ca6-10-02477-0.pdf (

The U.S. Supreme Court did not grant a writ of certiorari.

Justice Thru Storytelling (

Petition · LIFE in Prison for Defending Your Life? ·

As featured on NBC, NPR, Megyn Kelly TODAY, Ashleigh Banfield with CNN Headline News, Judgment with Ashleigh Banfield – Court TV, Detroit Free Press, and the Grand Haven Tribune, Justice Thru Storytelling (501c3) is committed to changing the narratives of women who are incarcerated or face imprisonment for defending themselves or their children from potentially deadly domestic violence.

Protesters outside Huron Valley Women’s Prison Jan. 17, 2022/Photo: Final Call

Our focus is to change a longstanding Michigan ruling, People v Christel, that restricts expert testimony regarding battered spouse syndrome in trials of those accused of injuring or killing their abuser in self-defense. By changing the ruling to be more in keeping with a majority of other states, psychologists and other domestic violence experts will be able to testify on behalf of women in Michigan who stand accused of crimes against their abuser.

Justice Thru Storytelling executive director Kelle Lynn gives a voice to the women at Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, MI who are incarcerated for defending their lives against intimate partner violence. In 2018, she spearheaded the “Double Injustice to Women” campaign to ensure Michigan women who are abused in their homes are not abused again in our courts. The “double injustice” stands for women who are being threatened and terrorized in their own home, then end up being treated unfairly and with great disparity in the criminal justice system. The #MeToo movement has recognized the voices of women all over the world, but incarcerated women have been mostly forgotten behind prison walls.

We need your help to make these important changes in our state to obtain #Justice4Women. Please visit our website at and click on the DEMAND JUSTICE link to send this video message to your legislators.  Video Link:

Related stories:

VOD Editor Ricardo Ferrell sounded the alarm about the 2015 alleged suicide of Janika Edmond at WHV in 2015, focusing on the role of guards. He called for an investigation of such deaths, which has not yet taken place.


Woman dies in third suicide at Michigan women’s prison since 2021 (

Shikisha Tidmore dies after apparent suicide at Michigan women’s prison (

Prisoner dies by apparent suicide at Michigan’s women’s prison (

Judge overturns 2005 conviction of Farmington Hills teacher who killed husband with hatchet –

Woman who killed husband: I cry every day for him (

Judge Accused Of Misconduct After Locking Up 3 Kids In Custody Case – CBS Detroit ( (Re: Lisa Ortlieb-Gorcyca, Asst. Prosecutor in Seaman case.)


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