TERRY WILSON TAKES 2ND DEGREE PLEA AFTER NEW TRIAL WIN OVER RACIST MACOMB COUNTY JURY, COURT

1st Degree Murder Conviction overturned in 2018 after exposure of racist remarks by one juror, Facebook postings by others, during trial

Court, media never addressed issue of predominantly white juries in Macomb County

Wilson says he feared facing another biased jury on re-trial, after change of venue not provided

Ricardo Ferrell

BY RICARDO FERRELL, VOD FIELD EDITOR

With VOD Editor Diane Bukowski

July 1, 2023

Terry Lamont Wilson with mother LaShanda Kelly.

MT. CLEMENS, MI – Terry Wilson, a 30 year-old Clinton Township man held in the Macomb County Jail four years awaiting a new trial, entered a guilty plea June 1 to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, in the 2013 death of his childhood friend William Clark during a crowded gathering in a township park.

Macomb County Judge Jennifer Faunce overturned Wilson’s 2014 conviction of first-degree murder in 2018, after the discovery on appeal of flagrant racism in jury deliberations, including one juror’s use of the “n” word. However, neither she nor most media addressed the issue of Wilson’s nearly all-white jury, a common occurrence in that county.

Wilson says he accepted the plea because he feared facing another such jury, after unsuccessfully asking for a change of venue from Macomb County.

Wilson’s attorneys Todd Perkins and Mark Clements told  him they expect him to be re-sentenced Aug. 1 to a term of 20-40 years, and two years for a firearm charge, with credit for the 10 years he served since May 2013, under a “Cobbs agreement.”

In an interview with VOD’s field editor, Wilson expressed relief that this hopefully will conclude this part of an ordeal that’s dragged on for too long.

“Everyone knows I didn’t intend to kill Willie,” Wilson said. “I reacted in self-defense because I honestly felt my life was in danger. That day in the park, when Willie and his brothers approached me, it turned out that they weren’t at the party to celebrate my little cousin’s birthday, they were there looking to start trouble.”

Wilson has always admitted he fired one shot, but says he should have been allowed to argue self-defense, or offered a charge of manslaughter.

But Macomb County Asst. Prosecutor Jurji Fedorak told the jury at the first trial that Wilson “wanted to show how big of a man he is in his neighborhood,” among other biased remarks, and insisted on the first-degree murder charge.

Fedorak has continued to handle Lewis’ case despite being replaced  as First Chair in Faunce’s court by another AP, Ronald Laszczak.

“This judicial system has failed my son and blatantly condoned a racist juror who called my son the N-word to form a biased and racially driven verdict solely because Terry’s skin color is different than his,” reacted  LaShanda Kelley, Lewis’ mother. “A young Black man literally doesn’t stand a chance out here in racist Macomb County. I am almost ashamed to call this county my home.”

She went on, “We have to ask the citizens of Macomb County, when is enough, enough? What will it take to end the practice of strategically empaneling an all-white jury and giving them the green light to find Black defendants guilty because they don’t equal up to their status privilege?”

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS BY RICARDO FERRELL:

Voice of Detroit has covered several Macomb County cases, and found historically that racism is a key factor in why many juries are majority white, while the defendant on trial is Black. Realistically speaking, most jury trials in Macomb County, end with black defendants being found guilty because they’ve been judged by their race and not the facts of the case.

This fact is particularly true in the case of the subject of this article. Terry Lamont Wilson, faced the uncertainty of receiving a fair and impartial trial, when he was found guilty in 2014 by an all-white Macomb County Jury, and had to endure being called a “n_____” by jury foreman Harvey Labadie. when confronted by Channel 7 Action News reporter Kim Russell at his home, he denied calling Wilson the N-word, and claimed never to have used the racist word in his lifetime, and that he’s a Democrat. But his fellow jurors testified under oath to hearing him make the degrading and racist comments inside the jury room during deliberations.

No wonder why Wilson, after four years sitting in the Macomb County jail, decided to accept and agree to a guilty plea to the lesser charge of second-degree murder. Without a change of venue, Wilson didn’t stand a chance out there in racist Macomb County, MI. He was doomed from the start, especially once former Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith received the request from the Clinton Township Police Department to arrest and charge Wilson with an open count of murder.

That marked the beginning of a never-ending saga of Wilson being treated in a racist way, by the police, the prosecutor, and the judge who was border-line complicit by showing favor to Jurii Fedorak, as he pushed a First Degree Premeditated Murder conviction despite there never being such a crime committed by Wilson. In many instances, plea bargaining is used to bully defendants into accepting a plea and discourage them from going to trial. Wilson didn’t want to take the risk of being found guilty by another all-white jury who may not be as vocal as Labadie was during the first trial.

LIFER TERRY WILSON FACES NEW TRIAL IN HISTORICALLY RACIST MACOMB COUNTY; CHANGE OF VENUE NEEDED | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

MICH. LIFER TERRY WILSON STILL FIGHTS FOR JUSTICE, BATTLING RACISM IN MACOMB CO./ RE-TRIAL FEB. 2023 | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

WRONGFULLY CONVICTED: TERRY LAMONT WILSON RECOUNTS SELF-DEFENSE CLAIM; JURY TRIAL FEB. 7 | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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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 in August, 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 $180/yr. and other costs including utility and internet bills, costs for research including court records and internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc.

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SECOND CHANCES FOR MICHIGAN LIFERS! MOVEMENT GAINS STEAM AS RE-SENTENCING ACT INTRODUCED

National LIfers Association rallied Oct. 14, 2021 for Second Look legislation.

https://voiceofdetroit.net/2021/10/24/end-michigans-secret-death-row-hundreds-demand-end-to-lwop-other-reforms-at-state-capitol/

Michigan lawmakers, with families and advocates of the state’s prisoners, announced introduction of Second Chance Sentencing Act April 19, 2023.

Legislation would allow judges to review the sentences of nonviolent incarcerated individuals who have already served at least 10 years of their sentence 

 LANSING, Mich. (April 20, 2023) — Yesterday, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) and Rep. Jimmie Wilson (D-Ypsilanti) announced the Second Look Sentencing Act, legislation that would provide an opportunity for

The late Daniel Jones, a beloved juvenile lifer activist,  welcomed State Sen. Stephanie Chang to the stage at Nov. 14, 2021 Lansing rally calling for Second Chances for lifers.

incarcerated individuals to petition their sentencing judge for a reduction of their sentence after serving at least 10 years and if they are no longer a risk to the community. The bills were announced on the Capitol steps yesterday morning alongside advocates, former justice-involved residents and their families. The bills will be introduced in the coming week. 

“This is smart legislation. This policy will help reunite family members and provide a second chance for those who have served a significant amount of time in prison, changed themselves for the better, and have much to offer to our state,” said Sen. Chang. “This legislation gives these individuals who have already served a long time in prison the opportunity to be resentenced so they can return to their communities as productive, valuable residents.” 

Rally at State Capitol Nov. 14, 2021

Under this legislation, the incarcerated individual, their lawyer or the prosecutor would be able to petition the sentencing judge for a reduction of their sentence. The judge would consider factors such as the age of the person at the time of the crime and research on brain development, the person’s history while incarcerated, the person’s role in the offense compared to other co-defendants, relevant evidence about the person’s mental or physical health now or at the time of the offense, whether the person was a victim of human trafficking, whether the person experienced domestic abuse, and other factors. 

“It’s no secret that the cost to incarcerate someone is extremely high. Rather than allow this expense to continue to grow as costs rise and force families and friends to be away from each other for extreme periods of time, why not give these individuals the opportunity to have their sentences reviewed so they may return to their community,” said Sen. Wojno. “Saving taxpayer dollars and giving deserving folks a second chance at positively contributing to their community is a win.” 

“Living through a decade can change a lot of things—the way we think, how we talk, or how we act. Our brains change and grow, and the decisions we once made are not the decisions we would make now,” said Rep. Wilson. “This legislation allows us to put that understanding into action by giving deserving folks the chance to have their sentence reduced so that they may return to their family, friends, and community.”

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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 March 4, 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 $180/yr. and other costs including utility and internet bills, costs for research including court records and internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc.

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TAMERRA WASHINGTON: LETTERS FROM A MODERN CELL, HONORING MLK 6OTH ANNIVERSARY OF DETROIT MARCH

BY TAMERRA WASHINGTON 

VOD FIELD REPORTER

June 25, 2023 

Tamerra Washington is vice-president of the Nat’l Lifers Association chapter at Women’s Huron Valley CF, chairs the WHV Actual Innocent/Wrongfully Convicted Committee, and facilitates N/A. She is creating an internal registry for claims of innocence as well. She has a Facebook page under her name and another to publicize other women’s cases  at https://www.facebook.com/MissCarryingJusticeLeague1. 

Tamerra Washington 486364
Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility  3201 Bemis Rd. Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Tamerra Washington
/Facebook photo

LETTERS FROM A MODERN CELL 

16 April 1963 Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail… rewritten as how I feel it today from Women’s Huron Valley Prison. Join me on this sentiment still felt 60 years later. Rise up!

(Excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter are in all CAPS.)

” INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE. “

” WHATEVER AFFECTS ONE DIRECTLY, AFFECTS ALL INDIRECTLY. “

” IN ANY NONVIOLENT CAMPAIGN THERE ARE FOUR BASIC STEPS: COLLECTION OF THE FACTS TO DETERMINE WHETHER INJUSTICES EXIST; NEGOTIATION; SELF PURIFICATION; AND DIRECT ACTION. “

  • Collecting facts looks like accurate Intel from claims of innocence ( we are creating an internal Registry of Claims of Innocence: http://www.MCJLRegistry.com), timely investigations, and transparency in the process;
  • Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Birmingham Jail

    Negotiations could be exonerations or a FAIR trial. A procedural change that addresses disparities and no longer allows decades to pass on claims of injustices. We all know that minorities still receive grossly unjust treatment in the courts. That’s the foundation this system was built on. We’ve come a long way as a people, but there’s still work to do;

  • Self purification, I questioned this one, but this one’s for us wrongly convicted… are we willing to sacrifice, reach out despite the many rejections, not allowing bitterness or hatred to set in, and continued love regardless as to the outcome;
  • DIRECT ACTION... now that’s for you. Advocates and loved ones. All of humanity that is aware of these injustices that continue to occur by the hands of the system as it stands. It’s up to you to band together for diversity, all inclusion, and change. Women need ACTIVE PARTNERS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM. Look back over history, all change happened when the people said ‘ ENOUGH! ‘” DIRECT ACTION SEEKS TO DRAMATIZE THE ISSUE SO THAT IT CAN NO LONGER BE IGNORED. “

March in Detroit commemorating the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s freedom march in Detroit.

” THERE IS A TYPE OF CONSTRUCTIVE, NONVIOLENT TENSION WHICH IS NECESSARY FOR GROWTH. “

” THE PURPOSE OF OUR DIRECT ACTION PROGRAM IS TO CREATE A SITUATION SO CRISIS PACKED THAT IT WILL INEVITABLY OPEN THE DOOR TO NEGOTIATION. “

Family of Tamerra Washington turned out with hundreds of others for the June 4, 2021 rally to free Wayne County’s wrongfully convicted in downtown Detroit.

” FREEDOM IS NEVER VOLUNTARILY GIVEN BY THE OPPRESSOR; IT MUST BE DEMANDED BY THE OPPRESSED.
We see that with the prosecution and wrongly convicted individuals. If we sit silently… 50 years can pass us by. Life that cannot be regained. Precious moments that cannot be replaced.

FOR YEARS NOW I’VE HEARD THE WORD ” WAIT! ” IT RINGS IN THE EAR OF EVERY wrongly convicted individual WITH PIERCING FAMILIARITY. THIS ” WAIT ” HAS ALMOST ALWAYS MEANT ” NEVER “.

” WE MUST COME TO SEE WITH ONE OF OUR DISTINGUISHED JURISTS, THAT JUSTICE TOO LONG DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED. “

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

How long must we wait? Are women even a discussion in the equation of exonerations?

PERHAPS IT’S EASY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER FELT THE STINGING DARTS OF a wrongful conviction TO SAY ” WAIT!

But when you have seen the treatment of individuals in the MDOC, when you have seen the spiritual and emotional deaths at the hands of ‘ corrections officers‘; WHEN YOU SEE daily dehumanization and an absence of interpersonal intelligence from staff in positions of authority over individuals; WHEN YOU SUDDENLY FIND YOUR morale, morals, and value system obliterated by authority daily, you’ll too question this “WAIT!”.

Tamerra Washington’s young nieces joined the family at wrongful conviction rally June 4, 2021.

Situations beginning to distort our personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward the law. when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging C/O’s; when your name becomes a number; when you are harried by day and haunted at night by the fact that you are a prisoner unjustly, living constantly at a tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ” NOBODINESS” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

THERE COMES A TIME WHEN THE CUP OF ENDURANCE RUNS OVER, AND WE ARE NO LONGER WILLING TO BE PLUNGED INTO THE ABYSS OF DESPAIR.

” I HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND OUR LEGITIMATE AND UNAVOIDABLE IMPATIENCE “

Women rallied for Michigan’s women lifers at 2021 Lansing “Second Chance” rally. Lawanda Hollister, previously at Women’s Huron Valley, speaks at top.

Wrongful Convictions are NOT ONLY POLITICALLY, ECONOMICALLY, AND SOCIOLOGICALLY UNSOUND, they are MORALLY WRONG. Wrongful Convictions DISTORT THE SOUL AND DAMAGE THE PERSONALITY.

“SOMETIMES A LAW IS JUST ON ITS FACE AND UNJUST IN ITS APPLICATION.”.

Over the years, there were members of prosecution ” WERE MORE DEVOTED TO “ORDER THAN TO JUSTICE. ” Gatekeepers, WHO WERE MORE DEVOTED TO ” etiquette ” THAN TO JUSTICE; WHO PREFER A NEGATIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE ABSENCE OF TENSION TO A POSITIVE PEACE WHICH IS THE PRESENCE OF JUSTICE; WHO CONSTANTLY SAYS: ” I AGREE WITH YOU IN THE GOAL YOU SEEK, BUT I CANNOT AGREE WITH YOUR METHODS OF DIRECT ACTION; WHO PATERNALISTICALLY BELIEVES THEY CAN SET THE TIMETABLE FOR ANOTHER INDIVIDUALS’ FREEDOM; WHO LIVE BY A MYTHICAL CONCEPT OF TIME AND WHO CONSTANTLY ADVISE THE  wrongfully convicted to wait for a ” MORE CONVENIENT SEASON “

The time is NOW!

SHALLOW UNDERSTANDINGS FROM PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL ARE MORE FRUSTRATING THAN ABSOLUTE MISUNDERSTANDING FROM PEOPLE OF ILL WILL. LUKEWARM ACCEPTANCE IS MUCH MORE BEWILDERING THAN OUTRIGHT REJECTION.

I HAD HOPED Conviction Integrity Units, Innocence Clinics and Projects would see the need to investigate more claims of innocence from women. I HAD HOPED that Exonerees would speak up on behalf of the many women overlooked. All while we’re disconnected from family and society for decades IN WHICH THE wrongly convicted women PASSIVELY ACCEPTED THEIR UNJUST PLIGHT in the criminal justice system.

We are awakening from that slumber and reaching for our just due.

Marchers demand end to abuse at Women’s Huron Valley Jan. 25, 2022.

After years of inquiries about exonerations for women, I’d heard 2022 was our year.

” AS THE WEEKS AND MONTHS WENT BY, WE REALIZED THAT WE WERE THE VICTIMS OF A BROKEN PROMISE. AS IN SO MANY PAST EXPERIENCES, OUR HOPES HAD BEEN BLASTED, AND THE SHADOW OF DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT SETTLED UPON US.”

” INJUSTICE MUST BE EXPOSED, WITH ALL THE TENSION ITS EXPOSURE CREATES, TO THE LIGHT OF CONSCIENCE AND THE AIR OF NATIONAL OPINION BEFORE IT CAN BE CURED. “

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march for civil rights in Detroit, 1963. Then UAW President Walter Reuther is at left. Photo: WSU Reuther Library

” IT IS WRONG TO URGE AN INDIVIDUAL TO CEASE THEIR EFFORTS TO GAIN THEIR BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. “

We want Liberty, Justice, and Equitable treatment!

” WE REJECT THE MYTH CONCERNING TIME IN RELATION TO THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM.We want it NOW!

Society’s relaxed ATTITUDE STEMS FROM A TRAGIC MISCONCEPTION OF TIME, THAT THE VERY FLOW OF TIME WILL INEVITABLY CURE ALL ILLS. ACTUALLY, TIME ITSELF IS NEUTRAL; IT CAN BE USED EITHER DESTRUCTIVELY OR CONSTRUCTIVELY. MORE AND MORE I FEEL THAT THE PEOPLE OF ILL WILL HAVE USED TIME MUCH MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN HAVE THE PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL.

Direct Action changes years into days. Effective legal representation for all classes of people lessens blatant injustices in the courts. We must rise up!

” LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN LIKE WATERS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE AN EVER FLOWING STREAM “

Systematic injustices wouldn’t continue to occur, “BUT FOR THE APPALLING SILENCE OF THE GOOD PEOPLE. HUMAN PROGRESS NEVER ROLLS IN ON WHEELS OF INEVITABILITY; IT COMES THROUGH THE TIRELESS EFFORTS OF THOSE WILLING TO BE CO WORKERS WITH GOD, AND WITHOUT THIS HARD WORK, TIME ITSELF BECOMES AN ALLY OF THE FORCES OF SOCIAL STAGNATION. WE MUST USE TIME CREATIVELY, IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THE TIME IS ALWAYS RIPE TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT.

NOW IS THE TIME TO LIFT OUR NATIONAL POLICY FROM THE QUICKSAND OF RACIAL INJUSTICE TO THE SOLID ROCK OF HUMAN DIGNITY.” We are seeking those Co Workers with GOD. Walls fall down with the Mighty Harmony of GOD. No more procrastinating. Rise up!

OPPRESSED PEOPLE CANNOT REMAIN OPPRESSED FOREVER. THE YEARNING FOR FREEDOM EVENTUALLY MANIFESTS ITSELF, AND THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE wrongly convicted. SOMETHING WITHIN HAS REMINDED US OF OUR BIRTHRIGHT OF FREEDOM, AND SOMETHING WITHOUT HAS REMINDED US THAT IT CAN BE GAINED.

It’s the goal of the women toREACH MAJESTIC HEIGHTS OF UNDERSTANDING AND SISTERHOOD “. Uniting to bring awareness and DIRECT ACTION toward these injustices that individuals face in WHV.

Wayne Co. exoneree Larry Smith addresses Second Look rally Oct. 14, holding photo of Tamera Washington, whose family says she is wrongfully convicted.

I HAD HOPED THAT THE C.I.U’s, Innocence Clinics, and Projects, WOULD SEE THIS NEED. PERHAPS I WAS TOO OPTIMISTIC; PERHAPS I EXPECTED TOO MUCH. I SUPPOSE I SHOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT FEW MEMBERS OF THE OPPRESSOR SYSTEM CAN UNDERSTAND THE DEEP GROANS AND PASSIONATE YEARNINGS OF THE wrongly convicted women, AND STILL FEWER HAVE THE VISION TO SEE THAT INJUSTICE MUST BE ROOTED OUT BY STRONG, PERSISTENT, AND DETERMINED ACTION. I AM THANKFUL, HOWEVER, THAT SOME OF OUR criminal justice reform allies, exonerees, and advocacy groups HAVE GRASPED THE MEANING OF THIS SOCIAL REVOLUTION AND COMMITTED THEMSELVES TO IT.”

I FELT THAT exonerees WOULD BE OUR STRONGEST ALLIES. INSTEAD, SOME HAVE BEEN OUTRIGHT OPPONENTS, REFUSING TO UNDERSTAND THE FREEDOM MOVEMENT AND MISREPRESENTING the women’s desire to be included. ALL TOO MANY OTHERS HAVE BEEN MORE CAUTIOUS THAN COURAGEOUS AND HAVE REMAINED SILENT BEHIND THE ANESTHETIZING SECURITY OF their own exoneration.

THEY ARE STILL ALL TOO FEW IN QUANTITY, BUT THEY ARE BIG IN QUALITY. SOME HAVE CARVED A TUNNEL OF HOPE THROUGH THE DARK MOUNTAIN OF DISAPPOINTMENT, UNLIKE SO MANY OF THEIR MODERATE BROTHERS AND SISTERS:

North Carolina’s Johnetta Carr, pardoned by governor in 2020.

Anyone previously exonerated we hoped would include the women when you reach back for the continued fight for freedom. Negotiate for larger budgets in the C.I.U’s, Innocence Clinics, and Projects, double the staff, and investigative teams. Over 2,900 people have been exonerated, 15 of those women from Michigan since 1989. Justice that was denied through the judicial process. Organizations had to investigate and relieve those innocent individuals from their miscarriages of justice.

Read Johnetta Carr’s story at:

https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5693

SMALL IN NUMBER, however, THEY WERE BIG IN COMMITMENT.
THEY HAVE RECOGNIZED THE URGENCY OF THE MOMENT AND SENSED THE NEED FOR POWERFUL ” ACTION ” ANTIDOTES TO COMBAT THE DISEASE OF wrongful convictions.

LET ME TAKE NOTE OF MY OTHER MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. I HAVE BEEN SO GREATLY DISAPPOINTED WITH OTHERS. OF COURSE, THERE ARE SOME NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS. I AM NOT UNMINDFUL OF THE FACT THAT EACH OF YOU HAS TAKEN SOME SIGNIFICANT STANDS ON THIS ISSUE.

However, nothing known on behalf of Women’s Huron Valley. The only women’s facility in Michigan.

IN SPITE OF MY SHATTERED DREAMS, I CAME TO exonerees WITH HOPE THAT THE falsely accused COMMUNITY WOULD SEE THE JUSTICE OF OUR CAUSE AND, WITH DEEP MORAL CONCERN, WOULD SERVE AS THE CHANNEL THROUGH WHICH OUR JUST GRIEVANCES COULD REACH THE POWER STRUCTURE. I HAD HOPED THAT EACH OF YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND. BUT AGAIN I HAVE BEEN DISAPPOINTED.

” IN DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT I HAVE WEPT OVER THE LAXITY of Conviction Integrity Units, Innocence Clinics, and Projects to exonerate more women. BUT BE ASSURED THAT MY TEARS HAVE BEEN TEARS OF LOVE. THERE CAN BE NO DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT WHERE THERE IS NOT DEEP LOVE “

CIU Director Valerie Newman with her boss WC Prosecutor Kym Worthy during Worthy’s 2020 re-election campaign

I have witnessed Wayne County C.I.U release more men in five years than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I believed in their ability to right these systematic wrongs. I prayed they’d rid the only women’s prison in Michigan of the wrongfully convicted contained therein. We are ignored and only advised to ” WAIT!”

Death by incarceration sentencing handed down on many cases where no fact finder could conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Women aged out of adequate functionality… waiting! Women held past the cycle of birthing years. Disconnected and lost to all that matters. And we wait.

Create space just for women. Etch out space to investigate the integrity of women’s conviction experience in Michigan.

” WE WILL WIN OUR FREEDOM BECAUSE THE SACRED HERITAGE OF OUR NATION AND THE ETERNAL WILL OF GOD ARE EMBODIED IN OUR ECHOING DEMANDS.”

” IF I HAVE SAID ANYTHING IN THIS LETTER THAT OVERSTATES THE TRUTH AND INDICATES AN UNREASONABLE IMPATIENCE, I BEG YOU FORGIVE ME. IF I HAVE SAID ANYTHING THAT UNDERSTATES THE TRUTH AND INDICATES MY HAVING A PATIENCE THAT ALLOWS ME TO SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN sisterhood, I BEG GOD FORGIVE ME.”

Tamerra Washington

I HOPE THIS LETTER FINDS YOU ALL STRONG IN FAITH. I ALSO HOPE THAT CIRCUMSTANCES WILL SOON MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO MEET EACH F YOU.

YOURS FOR THE CAUSE OF PEACE, FREEDOM, AND SISTERHOOOD,

Tamerra Washington 486364
Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility                                3201 Bemis Rd, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

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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 March 4, 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 $180/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:

https://www.gofundme.com/donate-to-vod

 Cash App at $MDianeBukowski (313) 825-6126

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Judge Accused Of Misconduct After Locking Up 3 Kids In Custody Case – CBS Detroit (cbsnews.com) 

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DETROIT COPS WHO FRAMED WILLIE MERRIWEATHER IN 1987 INVOLVED IN MULTIPLE WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS

COPS IN WILLIE MERRIWEATHER CASE ALSO FRAMED EXONEREES DWIGHT LOVE, DANNY BURTON DURING RAMPANT DPD ABUSES OF THAT ERA

“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.”

EXCERPT FROM 2017 WILLIE MERRIWEATHER LETTER TO P.I.

.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.

MARK MCCLOUD, FORMER MERRIWEATHER CO-DEFENDANT, STRONGLY BACKS HIM IN AFFIDAVIT

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.”

ARTICLE BY MARK MCCLOUD PUBLISHED EARLIER IN VOD:

WHERE ARE MASS EXONERATIONS IN WAYNE CO. AND MICHIGAN? CHICAGO, BALTIMORE HAVE RELEASED 100’S | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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.

MERRIWEATHER’S FORMER CO-DEFENDANT SCOTT TRUMP BACKS HIM

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.”

HAMMOND TOLD JAIL DETAINEE HE, NOT MERRIWEATHER, GUILTY

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.

ALSHAM HALEEM: “EVERYONE DESERVES A SECOND CHANCE”

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.

DETROIT: FAMILIES OF WRONGFULLY CONVICTED TELL PROS. KYM WORTHY, POLICE, JUDGES–‘FREE THEM ALL’ | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

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.

POLICE, PROSECUTORS WOVE WEB OF LIES TO JUSTIFY WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS DURING WAVE OF DETROIT HOMICIDES IN ’80s, ’90’s   Including exonerees Dwight Love, Danny Burton, Desmond Ricks, more

WHO REALLY KILLED STACY GIST March 2, 1987

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.

DPD MAJOR CRIMES CHIEF GERALD STEWART

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:  http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Sarah.Hunter.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

SGT. RONALD SANDERS

 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 SGT. DAVID STAWIASZ

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.

“PLEASE OFFER YOUR ASSISTANCE IN THIS MATTER. WE ALL SHARE A DUTY TO EXPOSE CORRUPTION WITHIN THE WAYNE COUNTY’S JUDICIARY WHERE THE RECORDS SPEAK THE TRUTH!”

Write to:

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

Related: 

How many lives beyond Desmond Ricks have police helped steal? (freep.com)

LIFER PAUL DAVIS: FRAMED BY DETROIT COPS, APA WHO SENT CHILDREN TO CPS, JAIL TO GET FALSE TESTIMONY | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

LIFER KENNETH COOPER FIGHTS 2001 CONVICTION; NO PHYSICAL, EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE; BRADY VIOLATIONS | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

(more to be added)

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URGENT: Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper, now devoting itself entirely to stories related to our PRISON  NATION and POLICE STATE. Funds urgently need to keep VOD going.

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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CASH APP 313-825-6126 MDianeBukowski

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MICHAEL THOMPSON CP, ACLU, U-M PROJECT CALL FOR MASS CATEGORICAL CLEMENCY FOR MICHIGAN PRISONERS

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

“THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN! THEY STILL HAVE THEIR FOOT ON MY NECK. THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND SOMEBODY NEEDS TO FIX IT.” –Michael Thompson

“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 (aclu.org)

KEY REMARKS FROM PANELISTS:

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 (gofundme.com)

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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MICHIGAN HAS SENTENCED MORE KIDS TO DIE IN PRISON THAN ANY OTHER STATE AND IN THE REST OF THE WORLD

(ABOVE) THESE 54 WAYNE COUNTY JUVENILE LIFERS WERE STILL IN PRISON IN 2021 BECAUSE PROSECUTOR KYM WORTHY RECOMMENDED RENEWAL OF JLWOP FOR THEM ALL DESPITE MILLER V. ALABAMA (2012), MONTGOMERY V. LOUISIANA (2016) SCOTUS RULINGS. A VOD REVIEW NOW SHOWS THAT MOST HAVE BEEN RE-SENTENCED, WITH A GOOD NUMBER RELEASED. Complete list upcoming.

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:

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

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: https://www.gofundme.com/donate-to-vod CASH APP 313-825-6126 MDianeBukowski

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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? (usatoday.com)

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 (eji.org)

[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.

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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:

https://www.gofundme.com/donate-to-vod

CASH APP 313-825-6126 MDianeBukowski

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JORDAN NEELY LYNCHED BY WHITE VIGILANTE MOB, ONLY DANIEL PENNY CHARGED, RACIST DEBATE CONTINUES

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 (prismreports.org)

By Lara Witt (photos added by VOD)

May 4, 2023

UPDATE: AFTER MASSIVE PROTESTS THAT ENGULFED THE STREETS AND SUBWAYS OF NEW YORK CITY, THE NEW YORK D.A. CHARGED DANIEL PENNY WITH SECOND-DEGREE MANSLAUGHTER. NO CHARGES HAVE YET BEEN BROUGHT AGAINST AT LEAST TWO OTHER MEN SHOWN RESTRAINING JORDAN NEELY AS PENNY CHOKED HIM TO DEATH. 

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 (fox5vegas.com)

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.’”

JORDAN NEELY

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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COP DEWAYNE B. JONES: 3 DAYS PROBATION FOR 2018 ASSAULT ON DISTRESSED MOTHER SHELDY SMITH IN ER

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]

 ScottyEducation@yahoo.com and Draco.Life

Ashley Smith, Sheldy’s sister
Phone:  (254) 290-7303
justice4sheldy@gmail.com

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

RELATED STORIES:

GROUP WANTS DPD COP DEWAYNE JONES FIRED FOR 2018 BEATING OF DISTRESSED WOMAN SHELDY SMITH IN ER | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

DETROIT COP DEWAYNE JONES BEAT MENTALLY ILL WOMAN AT HOSPITAL, GOT PROBATION, THEN GOT PROMOTED | VOICE OF DETROIT: The city’s independent newspaper, unbossed and unbought

 

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‘ACTUALLY INNOCENT?’ DID DPD COPS FRAME NICHOLAS HUDSON FOR HIS TESTIMONY IN FEDERAL DRUG PROBE?

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.

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/FBI-Nabs-2-More-Detroit-Cops-DFP.pdf

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.

DETROIT FREE PRESS ARTICLE PUBLISHED MARCH 9, 2001

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.)

DETAILS OF THE NICHOLAS HUDSON CASE

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.”

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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.  http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Twilley.Resentencing-1.pdf

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.

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TAMMY SOLOMON, NICHOLAS HUDSON’S SISTER, ADDS:

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. 

RELATED DOCUMENTS:

Brief and exhibits:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Nicholas-Hudson-brief-Laurel-Kelly-Young-2.pdf.  and  http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/NIcholas-Hudson-Brief-Attachments6797.pdf

Joann Kinney Deposition:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Joann-Kinney-deposition-Moore_v_Detroit_City_of_et_al__miedce-07-11787__0020.5.pdf

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

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Jimmie-Blue-affidavit-2.pdf

Transcript of Joe Twilley Resentencing:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Twilley.Resentencing-1.pdf

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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:

https://www.gofundme.com/donate-to-vod

CASH APP 313-825-6126 MDianeBukowski

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE CONTACTING A CONVICTION INTEGRITY UNIT — CRIMINAL LEGAL NEWS

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.

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Read Wayne County procedures published on their website Conviction Integrity Unit | Prosecutor (waynecounty.com)

Newman

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

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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.

WHAT UNREPRESENTED PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW

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.

THE CIU WILL WANT TO TALK WITH YOUR LAWYERS

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.

CONCLUSION

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

http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Government_Misconduct_and_Convicting_the_Innocent-2.pdf

 

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