Editor: The first episode of “Philly D.A.” on PBS, aired on April 20, 2021, was published on YouTube, so VOD is providing it here for our readers to watch. There are eight episodes, to be aired on coming Tuesdays at 9 PM EST. Please be sure to watch. This is a stunning documentary which validates years of stories in Voice of Detroit regarding wrongful convictions in Michigan.
VOD has called for charges and disciplinary action against police and assistant prosecutors responsible for such convictions, with no action to date. This may be the ONLY way to stop such horrific miscarriages of justice, which have resulted in THOUSANDS of people still serving up to 50 years in prison, estimated at up to 30 percent and more of MDOC’s population.
WRONGFULLY CONVICTED IN MICHIGAN: (L to R) Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kens
See links to VOD’s most recent stories on wrongful convictions in Wayne, Oakland and St. Clair Counties below. The men in the photos above are still incarcerated in the MDOC, EXCEPT for Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy (see photos below), released on bond April 20, pending the Wayne County Prosecutor’s decision on appeal.
Thelonious Searcy with his attorney Michael Dezsi (l) and (r) with legal advisor Travis Herndon, who worked with Searcy on the 2016 pro se motion which led to his release on bond April 20, 2021.
VOD broke Searcy’s story and followed up with numerous articles beginning in 2017. Admitted hitman Vincent Smothers testified during a 2018 evidentiary hearing that HE committed the murder for which Shawn served 17 years in the MDOC. Other testimony at that hearing and in a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling exposed the deceitful roles trial judge Timothy Kenny and AP Patrick Muscat played in the frame-up.
VOD also covered the stories of many of those released after intervention by the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit. VOD stories on those released and those still incarcerated include the names of police and prosecutors responsible for the wrongful convictions, located after VOD’s research.
Protesters advance on Brookyn Center Police Department April 13 after white cop killed young father Daunte Wright.
See New York Times article, “Throughout Trial Over George Floyd’s Death, Killings by Police Mount” dated April 17, 2021.
“Since testimony began on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day.”
The Black-murder-by-cop next door to Minneapolis shows the world the dehumanization that is built into the white supremacist DNA of settler-colonialism will continue to produce crimes against our collective humanity.
“The murder of George Floyd was no more an aberration in U.S. society than the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was.”
The fix was in. The U.S. state was determined to demonstrate to the world that its system was able to render “justice” to its captive African/Black population.
So, unlike in the handful of cases where charges were brought against police officers for killing a Black or Brown person, the prosecutors this time did not pretend to follow the demands of the ill-informed public to bring charges of first degree or second-degree murder that would set a bar for conviction so high, it could not be met. That is a favorite strategy of prosecutors when conviction is not what they are looking for.
Former NBA star Stephen Jackson grew up with George Floyd in Houston, TX. and maintained a close friendship with him throughout their lives.
The prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin case did the opposite. They stacked the charges in a way that would make it impossible to escape a conviction. And everyone fell in line because the stakes were so high. Could the Shining City on the Hill, whose leadership was now associated with the “decent” Democrats, render justice for the killer of George Floyd? The answer to that question was going to be an emphatic yes. The press committed to gavel-to-gavel coverage and everything was ready for one of the greatest show trials of U.S. history.
But the intractable, racist nature of the relationship between Black people and the U.S. settler-colonial state reared its ugly head again and everything went off script right in the middle of the international production. That is because another young Black male was gunned down, ironically in the same metropolitan area where Floyd’s life was snatched from him.
“Everything went off script right in the middle of the international production.”
Everything was now confused again. What would justice mean for Floyd and any other Black individual murdered or assaulted by agents of the state even if Chauvin is convicted? Would the call for “justice” now just mean a demand for a trial since it is clear cases of Black murder will continue, as they have since the inception of this nation? Is that not what made the U.S. “exceptional” as the first republic ever established on the basis of race in human history?
The ruling class response to Covid-19 demonstrated how cheap life is in the United States, but the lives of Black people are even lower on the scale of human value. Yet, the charade continues. U.S. authorities gun down Black people in the United States, while its armies kill Black and other colonized peoples and nations around the world in the name of advancing democracy.
Extreme, systematic, murderous violence has always been at the heart of the white supremacist settler project.
Everyone knows really that the murder of George Floyd was no more an aberration in U.S. society than the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was. Extreme, systematic, murderous violence has always been at the heart of the white supremacist settler project. The Chauvin show trial was just supposed to help us to forget that for a moment.
It did not matter that no one was held accountable for the murder of Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, or the now countless murders where local prosecutors failed to bring charges and the government under the Obama and Trump administrations made political decisions not to launch federal investigations.
This case was different. It could not be ignored or explained away. The world had seen the gruesome snuff film of George Floyd that evoked global revulsion. (Above–click on “Watch on YouTube.” An inflection point had been reached in which the U.S. brand was potentially damaged beyond repair—so a sacrifice was required.
With the killing of Daunte Wright, a mistrial may not be the result and Chauvin will probably be convicted. That conviction, however, will not have the effect that the plan had originally imagined. Out of the confusion around what is to be demanded when the killings continue, is the slow awakening to the unavoidable reality that unless African/Black people are able to self-govern and exercise authentic collective self-determination, the degradation and dehumanization that is built into the white supremacist DNA of settler-colonialism will continue to produce Breonna Taylors, Eric Garners, mass incarceration, and crimes against our collective humanity.
And how do we shift that power? Malcolm X gave us a direction from the radical Black human rights tradition. He said you must be ready to pay the price required to experience full dignity as a person and as members of a self-determinant people.
And what is that price?
“The price to make others respect your human rights is death. You have to be ready to die… it’s time for you and me now to let the world know how peaceful we are, how well-meaning we are, how law-abiding we wish to be. But at the same time, we have to let the same world know we’ll blow their world sky-high if we’re not respected and recognized and treated the same as other human beings are treated.” That outcome cannot be scripted by Hollywood or the state propagandists.
Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC). He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and contributing columnist for Counterpunch.
Interviewed on his release from prison Feb. 4, 2021, Larry Smith gave full statement (at top) listing many others still locked up who should be freed
Larry Smith, Ramon Ward and Bernard Howard were featured in an investigative interview (bottom), by Channel 7’s Ross Jones April 14, 2021
Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor
Many who viewed Channel 7’s broadcast April 14 may not have seen Larry Smith’s complete statement on his release, featured in a Facebook live video by Kimberly Craig. VOD downloaded a clip from that video as shown at top.
One of the people Smith listed is Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor, who is incarcerated at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, where Smith and Ferrell formed a firm friendship. Ferrell is currently facing unconstitutional limitations of his access to communication outlets including JPay.
Many recent JPay’s sent to him from various journalists have been rejected “due to content.” VOD referred his case to the Michigan ACLU, which earlier won a lawsuit for Sharee Miller, a woman at MDOC’s Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility, as included in Ferrell’s last story on Voice of Detroit. See:
VOD has covered the wrongful convictions of (l to r) Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kensu
Also read VOD’s stories on the wrongful convictions of the individuals shown above, which have exposed police officers and assistant prosecutors by name, responsible for many other wrongful convictions: Thelonious Searcy, Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy, Ricky Rimmer-Bey, Carl Hubbard, David Shelton, and Temujin Kensu.
Judge Thomas Hathaway at Searcy appeal bond hearing March 1, 2021.
Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy should have been released to home confinement on bond April 5, pending any appeals of a victorious Feb. 11 order by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hathaway ordered the bond March 1, but his release has been inexplicably delayed.
Ewing and Searcy are awaiting a court hearing May 19, 2021 at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Darnella Williams-Clayborne. The hearing will determine whether they will be retried after a victorious COA ruling which the Michigan Supreme Court declined to upset on appeal by the prosecutor. Their original date of April 13 was postponed due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
See stories related to still-incarcerated individuals:
Attorney Lillian Diallo (center) celebrates with families of Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy after the two won a new trial in front of Judge Michael Hathaway Oct. 24, 2019. Darrell Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson is at top, center. Judge Darnella Williams-Claybourne appointed Diallo to represent Searcy beginning April 13, 2021. VOD photo
UPDATE: HEARING POSTPONED to MAY 19 @9AM
Atty: Court says that’s the next available date due to necessity for COVID-19 quarantine.
Darrell Ewing, Derrico Searcy finally scheduled to appear for new trial Tues. April 13, @1:30pm, after orders by 8 state, federal judges in 4 courts
Families hope prosecutor will move to dismiss charges due to trial jury misconduct, and because another man confessed to murder of J.B. Watson
During trial, AP Kam Towns would not take confession affidavit
Hearing in front of WCCC Judge Darnella Williams-Clayborne, appointed to bench last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, later elected
DETROIT–Eight judges in four courts have ordered a new trial for Detroiters Darrell Ewing and Derrico Searcy since their murder convictions in 2009, citing jury misconduct and a lack of “overwhelming” evidence of guilt.
In the wake of a Michigan Supreme Court ruling March 2 denying the prosecution’s last appeal, they will finally appear by Zoom in front of Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Darnella Williams-Claybourne Tues. April 13 at 1:30 P.M.
If Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy does not move to dismiss the charges, a date for the new trial should be set.
At trial, prosecutors ignored Tyree Washingon’s confession in a sworn affidavit to the 2009 drive-by murder of J.B. Watson, for which Ewing and Searcy were convicted. In the affidavit given to AP Kam Towns, Washington said he retaliated because Watson earlier shot at his child and her mother. A documented FBI confidential informant also testified on the stand that his cousin and Washington were responsible for Watson’s murder.
Tyree Washington (l), AP Kam Towns (r)
“At the time I took responsibility for Mr. Watson’s murder, I signed a sworn affidavit and it was given to Kam Towns, the prosecutor handling Mr. Ewing’s case during Mr. Ewing’s trial,” Washington said in his affidavit. “My attorney delivered the affidavit to Ms. Towns and told her I wanted to testify. Ms. Towns’ response was that she already had the perpetrators she was looking for and did not need me to testify.”
The prosecutor’s theory of the case was that Washington had confessed due to a “gang hierarchy,” which was not actually testified to at trial. But several jury members picked up the ball, introducing research on urban gangs from the internet and social media into their deliberations to discount Washington’s confession. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood first ordered a new trial in 2017 because of that unlawful introduction of “extraneous information.”
Justice Megan Cavanagh, supported by Justice Richard Bernstein, said that a witness account of the murders involved in the case should have been submitted at trial.
“And yet, it is true that people in prison run into past acquaintances, that some people serving long prison sentences spend long hours in the law library falling down legal rabbit holes, and that some of those people were selling marijuana at 2 a.m. when they were 13 years old,” Justice Cavanagh wrote. “These experiences are unlike my own, and though I cannot speak for him, they may also be unlike Justice MARKMAN’s. But maybe for exactly that reason the judicial function in this matter is not to pass on the credibility of [affiant] Carter’s story, but only to ask ‘whether a reasonable juror could find the testimony credible on retrial,’ Johnson, 502 Mich at 567 (emphasis altered).”
“My son is innocent,” Ewing’s mother LaSonya Dodson told VOD after Wayne Co. Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway ordered a new trial Oct. 24, 2019. “He has lost over 10 years of his life, 10 years of his family’s life. This affects the whole family, my daughters, my sisters, everyone.”
The families of both men say they have agonized because the two contracted the coronavirus while in prison. Michigan prisons nationally have the highest COVID-19 infection rate, 76 in 100 as compared to 8 in 100 in the general population, according to an April 10, 2021 article in the New York Times.
From the New York Times, April 10, 2021
Twenty-four men serving time at Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF), where Ewing is serving a life without parole sentence, have died from the coronavirus, the highest number of deaths in individual Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) facilities. Searcy is serving his 40-60 year sentence at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (BCF). There, 90 new cases of the likely more contagious United Kingdom (UK) coronavirus variant were identified in February, half of the cases in Michigan’s entire population at the time. Searcy contracted that variant.
Judges on Darrell Ewing/Derrico Searcy case. Judge Wms.-Clayborne (top r) to hear case 4/13/21
After the Oct. 24, 2019 evidentiary hearing, ordered by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Denise Page Hood, Hathaway ruled that jury deliberations at the 2009 trial were contaminated by “extraneous information” about urban gangs from social media and the internet, introduced by jurors into deliberations.
The prosecution had posited that the murder resulted from a gang war, but no one testified to that effect at trial.
Judge Hathaway also said that evidence of guilt at the trial was not “overwhelming.” His ruling was strongly upheld by a state Court of Appeals panel October 13, 2020.
The COA panel said in part, “Juror [Kathleen] Byrnes testified that she was unsure whether Searcy and Ewing were guilty and that she was the holdout juror that caused the jury to report a deadlock. Byrnes found particularly troubling the testimony that Washington had confessed to the crime Ewing was accused of. According to Byrnes, another juror, Karen James, researched information about gangs and gang hierarchies on the Internet and reported her findings to Byrnes during deliberation.”
Former TV News reporter Scott Lewis interviewed Tyree Washington about the murder of J.B. Watson in 2009.
Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper. VOD’s editors and reporters, most of whom live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated, are not paid for their work. Ongoing costs include quarterly web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, and internet fees, as well as office supplies, gas, etc.
Wayne Co. APA Patrick Muscat, at right, prosecuted (l to r) Kenneth Nixon and Davontae Sanford, now considered wrongfully convicted, and Thelonious ‘Shawn” Searcy, who won definitive Feb. 11 COA ruling granting a new trial.
Nixon freed Feb. 18, 2021 after 15 years in MDOC; “questionable trial testimony” from jail-house informant Stanley January, Jr. cited
Memos show Kym Worthy’s APA Patrick Muscat, Deputy Chief of Special Operations, pressed DPD to interview Nixon’s “cellmates”
APA Muscat prosecuted Davontae Sanford, Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy high-profile cases; Sanford freed 2015, COA ordered new trial for Searcy Feb. 11, 2021
Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has brought no charges against other AP’s, police who participated in concocting cases against its 28 exonerees
Three strikes and you’re out? PA District Attorney Larry Krasner fired 31 Asst. DA’s in 2018 citing their involvement in wrongful convictions
By Diane Bukowski
April 5, 2021
Updated April 8, 2021
DETROIT— Did Wayne County Asst. Prosecutor Patrick Muscat, Kym Worthy’s Deputy Chief of Special Prosecutions, suborn perjury from jail-house “snitch” Stanley January, Jr. during the 2005 trial of Kenneth Nixon, then 19? Nixon was convicted and given life without parole for the widely-publicized fire-bombing murders of two young children.
“As of today, I’m a 32-year-old man that has spent all of my 20’s incarcerated for a crime that I didn’t commit,” Nixon, who maintained his innocence from the outset, told the Detroit Free Press in 2018. “I was robbed of my youth at an age where I was really learning to discover what being a man was, being a father was, being an adult was.”
Wayne Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow vacated Nixon’s conviction and life LWOP sentence Feb. 18 after Nixon spent over 15 years in prison. Worthy’s Conviction Integrity Unit cited questionable trial testimony from jail-house informant Stanley January, Jr., and a 13-year-old eyewitness, the brother of the children who died.
They were Raylond McCulley, 10, and and his 18-month-old sister, Tamyah Vaughn.
Nixon is now free, re-building his life, and awaiting the outcome of further legal action on his case, including a civil lawsuit. No one else has been charged in the fire-bombing.
The 2018 Free Press article cited a memo from Muscat requesting that DPD officers “interview both defendants’ cellmates” after they termed the 13-year-old’s testimony contradictory and unreliable. The 13-year-old was the brother of the victims. Nixon’s co-defendant was his girl friend LaToya Caulford, who was acquitted by a separate jury after their trial.
Kenneth Nixon on his release Feb. 18, 2021/Facebook
VOD obtained a copy of the original memo, dated Aug. 5, 2005, from Muscat to Lt. James Tolbert, then homicide division chief. He has since been placed on the Wayne County Prosecutor’s “Brady-Giglio” list of untrustworthy police officers due to his role in the 2008 wrongful conviction of 14-year-old Davontae Sanford. He resigned afterwards.
DPD Sgt. Moises Jimenez was the Chief Investigating Officer (CIO) in Nixon’s case as well as the case of another wrongfully convicted Detroiter, Alexandre Ansari, released in 2019. In that case, he identified Ansari based on a tip using a common nickname for the killer which applied to others as well.
Jimenez interviewed January in May 2005, but did not report the interview until Aug. 30, 2005, after Muscat requested it Aug. 3 in the memo below. January testified on the last day of Nixon’s trial in September, 2005.
Jimenez is still with DPD, although federal lawsuits citing him as defendant are pending in both Nixon and Ansari’s cases. He is not on the prosecutor’s “Giglio-Brady” list.
Former DPD Cdr. James Tolbert, current Det. Moises Jimenez
The National Registry of Exonerations reported that, “On August 3, 2005—with trial looming in about six weeks, assistant prosecutor Muscat wrote a memo to Tolbert noting that “to be blunt, the case has problems.” On August 30, 2005—27 days later—Detective Jimenez said January revealed for the first time the conversation he claimed to have had with Nixon back in May during which Nixon confessed to the crime.”
The NRE noted further that a statement from another prisoner, filed with Nixon’s federal habeas appeal, cast more doubt on the validity of January’s testimony.
“The inmate, Paul Crump, provided a statement saying that January admitted he learned about the case from a television news report. Crump said that January said he decided to “make up a lie…to try and make a deal with the prosecutor to get his case dropped or try and get the minimum amount of time in exchange for testifying” against Nixon. Crump said January told him that he wanted to get out of custody to attend his daughter’s high school graduation and “that his ex-wife and daughter would be disappointed and furious at him if he missed this hallmark occasion.” In November 2012, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn denied the petition.” Kenneth Nixon – National Registry of Exonerations (umich.edu)
Thelonious Searcy (r foreground) listens as his atty. Michael Dezsi plays Vincent Smothers’ recorded confession March 19, 2018. Smothers, on witness stand with head bowed, then testified in detail about his killing of Jamal Segars. AP Timothy Chambers is at right.
THELONIOUS SEARCY CASE
Muscat was also the APA in the 2005 trial and conviction of Thelonious ‘Shawn’ Searcy for the murder of Jamal Segars outside Detroit’s City Airport in Sept. 2004, which resulted in a life without parole sentence.
A Michigan Court of Appeals panel unanimously granted Searcy a new trial Feb. 11 in a 13-page ruling that was highly critical of the role Wayne Third Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny (trial judge at the time) and APA Muscat played in hiding ballistics evidence from Searcy’s jury.
After consulting with Muscat during the trial, Kenny falsely told jurors the bullets in the victim’s body were “too deformed” to identify their caliber, although an evidence technician reported before trial that they were .40 caliber. Muscat presented a .45 caliber gun at trial and identified it as the murder weapon. He repeated his allegations at Searcy’s evidentiary hearing.
The appeals court said Kenny’s dismissal of self-professed hitman Vincent Smothers’ detailed confession to the murder during a 2018 evidentiary hearing was an “abuse of discretion.” Legal scholars say such a ruling against a judge is highly unusual.
Judge Timothy Kenny, AP Patrick Muscat at 2018 evidentiary hearing.
“Importantly, the jury was informed that ‘the gun that is in evidence is a .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun’ and was then informed that the bullet that was removed from the murder victim could not be tested because it was ‘too deformed,'” the appeals court said. “However . . . .the type of bullet was able to be discerned and had been accurately described as a .40-caliber bullet before trial. Without this important evidence, the jury was left to decide whether, based on the location of the .45-caliber casings and other record evidence, Searcy committed the crimes.”. . .
“In sum, when considering the trial evidence in light of the other evidence that would be presented at retrial, we conclude that Searcy has a reasonably likely chance of acquittal. . . Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by denying Searcy’s motion for relief from judgment with respect to Searcy’s claim of new evidence relating to Smothers.”
Judge Thomas Hathaway at Searcy appeal bond hearing March 1, 2021.
Wayne Co. Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hathaway granted Searcy an appeal bond at a hearing March 1, specifying home confinement while prosecutors decide whether to retry him.
He ordered Searcy’s release either on the day the Wayne County Prosecutor appealed the COA ruling again to the Michigan Supreme Court (which earlier remanded it to the Appeals Court), or by April 4, the last day the prosecution could appeal.
The prosecution did not appeal by the deadline. Searcy expected to be released to home confinement April 5, but AP Thomas Chambers has contested the language in the proposed order for release, according to Atty. Michael Dezsi. Dezsi said he is awaiting a hearing on the order in front of Hathaway, which had not been scheduled at press time.
T. “Shawn” Searcy with his young daughter LaShyra before his conviction in 2005
VOD emailed the Prosecutor’s Office April 5 as follows, “Does the prosecutor’s office plan to re-try Thelonious Searcy, since the Feb. 11 COA ruling in his case has not been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court? The deadline for that was April 4, 2021. Does Prosecutor Worthy have any comment on the continuing status of APA Patrick Muscat, who was the prosecutor in the cases of Kenneth Nixon, Davontae Sanford, and Searcy? Specifically with regard to his role in recruiting the jail-house informant Stanley January, Jr. whose testimony was key to Nixon’s conviction?”
APA Maria Miller of the Prosecutor’s Office replied that they had filed an application for leave to appeal the Searcy ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court on April 5. She replied regarding Muscat’s current role, “Pat Muscat remains on staff with WCPO.”
Members of Searcy’s family told VOD that they were eagerly awaiting his release April 5, including making .provisions for him to stay at the court-designated address on home confinement.
“We are highly distressed that 17 years after Shawn was taken to prison by Detroit police who raided the home he and his wife and daughters were visiting, we still do not have him here with us,” one family member remarked. “We know Shawn is innocent and always has been.”
Searcy now has grandchildren, after missing his daughters’ formative years.
Davontae Sanford (center) after he was released in 2015. His mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon and his late stepfather Jeremaine Tilmon, who fought for their son’s freedom for nine years, were at his side.
DAVONTAE SANFORD CASE
In 2008, Smothers also confessed to the notorious “Runyon Street” murders of four people, shortly after 14-year-old Davontae Sanford was sentenced to 60 to 90 years in prison for the murders. Sanford’s wrongful conviction became a cause celebre globally when it was vacated in 2015 and Sanford was freed.
Muscat prosecuted Sanford at trial, relying on a coerced confession from the child, obtained without a lawyer or parent present.
Muscat and Prosecutor Worthy pursued Sanford’s conviction relentlessly for nine years despite Smothers’ confession to DPD Detective Ira Todd in 2008 shortly after Sanford’s sentencing.
It was only after Michigan State Police weighed in with a 151-pp. review of the case that Worthy agreed to a dismissal without prejudice, but continued to insist that Sanford was not innocent, earning her the title of “Innocence Denier” in a national publication.
The MSP reported that Detroit Police filed reports on the day the murders happened showing that Sanford could not have been the killer in the case. That included eyewitness testimony from a victim who survived the killings, and from a neighbor who saw the killers leaving the house, that the killers were older and taller than Sanford. Those reports were ignored by Muscat and Worthy. See VOD stories on Sanford’s case linked below this article.
PROS. KYM WORTHY’S STATEMENTS ON KENNETH NIXON CASE
Wayne Co Pros. Kym Worthy
“The main issue at Mr. Nixon’s trial was the identification of the person who threw the Molotov cocktail,” Prosecutor Worthy said in a statement. “The identification of Nixon was based upon the statements and trial testimony of the 13-year-old boy. The only other person that testified that Nixon was responsible was a jailhouse informant. The informant told a homicide detective that while he and Nixon were in jail Nixon admitted to the firebombing of the Charleston street house. . . In exchange for a guilty plea in an unrelated case the informant received a one year to three-and-a-half-year sentence.”
VOD earlier asked Worthy’s press representative Maria Miler about the 2018 Free Press article, which cited two professors’ opposing evaluations of a purported Brady violation by the prosecution, consisting of its failure to give defense attorneys copies of the memos cited above. Those attorneys also said the prosecution had not turned over a report from an earlier suspicious fire at the house where the two children died.
VOD reported April 5 that Miller had not responded to the email, but evidently missed Miller’s response.
Miller said, “One professor opined upon that. Another professor said it was not a Brady violation. Our position is that there was no Brady violation. The prosecutor turned over the inconsistent statements to the defense and they had the ability to use them to cross-examine the prosecution witness in the case.”
Philly DA Larry Krasner Fires 31 Asst. DA’s 4 Days after taking office in 2019
In 2019, Philadephia District Attorney Larry Krasner fired 31 assistant DA’s, immediately after assuming office on a reform platform which included creating a Conviction Integrity Unit. He later cited their role in obtaining wrongful convictions as a key factor.
“I did not enjoy it, but it was necessary to do,” he told a reporter later. “Especially as I see these exonerations happen, and guess whose names just keep coming up for having been involved in convictions of innocent people?”
“The people you let go?” the reporter asked. Krasner responded, “Yep. That story will be developing. Stay tuned.”
Prosecutors across the country, including Baltimore and New York City, are also tossing out criminal convictions tied to cops who have been charged and/or convicted in the frame-ups of defendants. See:
Brooklyn DA Moves to Vacate 90 Convictions Tied to Cop Facing Perjury Charges
Former New York City Police Detective Joseph Franco (center) is led to trial on perjury charges related to his handling of drug cases.
“The Brooklyn district attorney’s office will ask a court to vacate 90 convictions based on the work of a former NYPD detective now facing perjury and other charges.
DA Eric Gonzalez’s office said Wednesday it did not find any misconduct in the 27 felony and 63 misdemeanor convictions, nor did it find that any of the defendants were innocent. Regardless, the office said it had lost confidence in cases where Det. Joseph Franco was considered an essential witness.
‘I cannot in good faith stand by convictions that principally relied on his testimony,’ he added. . . ‘We have to make sure the things we do as prosecutors don’t cause additional harm in the community.”
Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s criminal defense practice said Franco ‘touched thousands of cases throughout New York City, and we may never know the full extent of the damage he caused and lives he upended.'”
Pros. Worthy has filed no charges against cops or AP’s responsible for CIU’s 28 wrongful convictions
To date, no charges for perjury, which could have resulted in life sentences, or other wrongdoings have been brought against assistant prosecutors and police officers who concocted the cases against the 28 people exonerated by the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit. The Michigan State Police even recommended that charges be brought against DPD officers Michael Russell and James Tolbert in the case of Davontae Sanford. Testimony from another police officer, Dale Collins, was key to the convictions of Sanford and Searcy. His role in other cases has been cited repeatedly, but he has faced no charges.
DPD Sgt. Dale Collins
DPD Sgt. Ernest Wilson
Prosecutor Worthy claimed the deadline for filing charges against Tolbert had expired, but cases of perjury carry penalties of up to life in prison if that is the sentence accorded to a defendant.
Regarding APA Muscat’s role in the wrongful convictions of Kenneth Nixon, Davontae Sanford and Thelonious Searcy, one VOD reader commented, “He is ruining the lives of innocent people with no consequence. If we don’t bring awareness and hopefully some pressure, he’ll eventually retire with full lifetime benefits paid for by tax-payers dollars. Where’s the justice in that?”
One exoneree, Mubarez Ahmed, has protested the fact that no charges have been brought against DPD officer Ernest Wilson, who solicited illegal witness identifications of Ahmed that led to his wrongful conviction in 2002. He was freed in 2019.
Worthy’s office has claimed that she has not used the testimony of jail-house snitches since she took office in 2004. However, a jail-house informant was used to convict Kenneth Nixon in 2005.
Charles Jones with oldest child, only daughter Aiyana Jones.
Later, in 2011, AP Robert Moran, currently Worthy’s Chief of Special Investigations, recruited two jail-house informants to convict Charles Jones and Chauncey Owens.
They were the father and uncle-in-law of Aiyana Jones, killed in 2010 during a brutal military-style police raid on her grandmother’s home.
Jones was sentenced to 40-60 years in prison and Owens to life for the killing of teenager Je’Rean Blake two days before the raid. VOD covered their trials extensively, finding that no forensic evidence was presented.
Jones later pled guilty to reduced charges and sentences to obtain his freedom after the Jones family had been extensively vilified in local media.
“Snitch” Jay Schlenkerman testifies at Chauncey Owens’ 2011 preliminary exam; defense atty. Leon Weiss (at top) berated AP Robert Moran (bottom) for using snitch testimony during hearing. (VOD photos)
Jay Schlenkerman, a serial woman-beater, drunk driver, and self-admitted perjurer, who was housed with Owens in the Wayne Co. Jail Division 3, claimed Owens told him Jones gave him the gun used in the killing, which was never introduced into evidence.
But Owens named another man as the person who gave him the gun during a police interview the day of Aiyana’s death, which was shown only to Owens’ jury. VOD found no other such report in court records despite extensive research including a page-by-page review of three volumes of Jones’ court file.
The other “snitch” was Qasim Raqib, who signed a written pledge to give evidence against Jones and two other prisoners in exchange for lesser charges in the 2011 murder and dismemberment of a transgender teen.
Voice of Detroit is a pro bono newspaper. VOD’s editors and reporters, most of whom live on fixed incomes or are incarcerated, are not paid for their work. Ongoing costs include quarterly web charges of $380, P.O. box fee of $150/yr. and costs for research including court records, and internet fees, as well as office supplies, gas, etc.
I witnessed CO’s, even a psychologist, taunt residents in treatment program into committing suicide
An independent investigation into MDOC suicides is overdue
Janika Edmond hung herself at Huron Valley Women’s Facility after guards bet each other lunch on whether she would do it
Jeremy Garza killed himself at Marquette Prison in 2014 half-hour after guards told him, “Go ahead.”
VOD Field Editor Ricardo Ferrell, a Prisoner Observation Aide (POA) who spends hours with prisoners on suicide watch, shows extreme courage in reporting their abuse by correctional officers and a psychologist who urged them to commit suicide. This is a system-wide problem as shown by the stories of Janika Edmond, Jeremy Garza below. Michigan’s ACLU won a lawsuit for POA Sharee Miller in 2019 in which the MDOC agreed to allow POA’s to report mistreatment to an outside governmental agency or protection and advocacy organizations. VOD will be monitoring this situation on Ricardo Ferrell’s behalf.
Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor
March 27, 2021
In 2008, the department repurposed the Huron Valley Men’s Facility in Pittsfield Twp., and converted it into a women’s facility. Some of the housing units at HVMF that held many of the most severe mentally ill prisoners who often engaged in self-mutilation and suicidal tendencies, were transferred to the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Madison Twp., and housed in the only two Level IV units.
In the last two years, there have been five or six patients housed in the Resident Treatment Program (RTP units) who committed suicide.
The Mental Health Services Department at Gus Harrison has several highly paid under-qualified personnel overseeing the RTP units and those housed there. It is this writer’s firm belief that some of the driving factors in the uptick in suicides at this particular facility come from the continuous mistreatment by custody staff who have on many occasions suggested, urged, and dared prisoners who suffer from acute mental illness to kill themselves.
Some may wonder and ask how do I know this to be true? Well, prior to 2012, the MDOC utilized corrections officers to observe prisoners who demonstrated harmful behavior by self-inflicted injuries, and suicide attempts. However, due to the enormous cost associated with having officers observe this particular group of prisoners (costing millions of dollars), and the reluctance of these prisoners to share with staff the reasons behind their behavior, former MDOC director Daniel Heyns decided to adopt a program from the Federal Bureau of Prisons. There, carefully selected prisoners received specialized and extensive training to participate in the Prisoner Observation Aide (POA) Program, which enabled the trained prisoners to observe those engaging in self-injurious and suicidal behavior and further handle it.
Advocates with “Silent Cry” traveled all the way from New York CIty to the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility Dec. 11, 2020 to protest huge flare-ups of active COVID-19 cases throughout MDOC.
Among the benefits from the MDOC’s adoption of this unique program is the cost effectiveness. Prisoners are paid $3.34 for working between 3-6 hours in a 24-hour period, compared to the cost of paying a corrections officer his/her normal $20 – $25 per hour, plus overtime, etc. This had been costing millions of dollars out of the $2.2 billion annual MDOC budget. The other benefit is the prisoner-to-prisoner connection, where those having a mental breakdown and demonstrating harmful behaviors become more willing to share their issues with fellow prisoners, far more quickly than they would with corrections officers, and/or qualified mental health professionals.
On May 6th, 11 prisoners including myself received the required training to work as POA’s here at the Gus Harrison facility. After receiving certification from one of the psychologists and the classification department, I then was assigned to work in both RTP units and the segregation unit. Between May 12, 2020 – November 15, 2020, I consistently worked sometimes far beyond the normal 3-hour shifts. There were times when we were short POA’s (ONLY 5 of us) and I would work 3 or 4 times in a 24-hour period, oftentimes 4 to 5 hours on each shift. By my best estimate, I probably was called to work approximately 200 times in the six month time frame. My main point is that I was present on many occasions when corrections officers egged prisoners on to harm themselves or commit suicide. In another instance, I witnessed a psychologist tell the prisoner, “I don’t believe you will kill yourself, so go ahead do it.”
Prisoners at Gus Harrison CF are shown making donations to local groups three years ago.
This writer is willing to submit to a polygraph examination about the occurrences. This is providing that the corrections officers and the psychologist I observed performing this unprofessional and unlawful behavior are equally willing to do so as well.
This is in the interest of fundamental fairness and justice for the many mentally ill prisoners directly impacted by the despicable behavior of employees within the Michigan Department of Corrections, who indulge in the taunting the most vulnerable prisoners by encouraging, enticing, promoting and daring them to take their own lives. It is suggested that a full scale independent investigation be conducted by an entity outside of the MDOC’s scope of authority based on the fact there have been suicides committed on the grounds of a state correctional facility.
While prisoners have limited rights as convicted felons, they do enjoy the right to be treated humanely with dignity and respect, and the right to be free of mistreatment, humiliation, discrimination, and degradation. Among the constitutionally protected rights of any U.S. citizen, including prisoners. is the right to exercise their religious freedom, properly address their grievances/complaints, and to have unfettered access to the Courts & the Press.
In summation, it should be noted the following: An incarcerated individual should be free from reprisal, repercussion, and/or retaliation for exercising their right to file a complaint/lawsuit.
Billboard in Havana, Cuba addresses coronavirus outbreak there.
According to a widely-circulated brochure, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has advised his followers NOT to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for various reasons. He notes at the close of the brochure that Cuba and other countries will have better means to combat the coronavirus.
The Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan Nation of Islam
The articles below show that Cuba IS vaccinating its people with their own experimental vaccines. However, the articles also note that Cuba HAD to turn to its own resources because the U.S. and other countries will not provide vaccines produced in the U.S. for distribution to the Cuban people.
Michigan now has the second worst record of new coronavirus cases in the country. States across the U.S. are reporting similar new waves. There is not time for people in the U.S. to wait for U.S.-Cuba relations to improve before being vaccinated. More deaths and grave illnesses are in store immediately if people here refuse available vaccines.
After reading numerous research articles on the vaccines, VOD’s editor and staff have all received COVID-19 vaccines here in Detroit. We suggest that our readers weigh their options very seriously.
CUBA TO ADMINISTER COVID-19 EXPERIMENTAL VACCINES TO NEARLY ALL HAVANA RESIDENTS
March 24, 2021, 10:40 AM EDT / Updated March 24, 2021, 11:52 AM EDT
This month Cuba began late phase trials of two of their five experimental shots, Soberana 2 and Abdala. If successful, they’d be Latin America’s first homegrown vaccines.
Dr, Ileana Morales Suarez, Cuban Health Ministry
HAVANA — Cuba will administer experimental Covid-19 shots to nearly the entire population of the capital Havana by May as health authorities carry out massive interventional studies and late stage trials, officials said on Tuesday.
Cuba, which has a long history of developing and exporting vaccines, this month began late phase trials of two of its five experimental shots, Soberana 2 and Abdala, which will be Latin America’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccines if they prove successful.
Ileana Morales, the health ministry’s director of science and technological innovation, said on a roundtable broadcast on state television that authorities would conduct an intervention study in 1.7 million people in Havana by May.
That comes on top of one it has already started for 150,000 frontline workers in the city, which is estimated to have 2.1 million inhabitants.
Cuba’s capital is at the centre of its worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic, registering 292 cases per 100,000 inhabitants compared with a nationwide average of 103.5, Deputy Health Minister Carilda Peña said.
Authorities could seek approval for emergency use of Abdala and Soberana 2, which both target the spike protein of the novel coronavirus, in June, Morales said.
“With the approval of emergency use… we would be on track to a more massive vaccination of the population,” said Morales.
That mass vaccination would start with the most at-risk groups including the over-60 and health care workers. By August, six million people should have received a vaccine, with all Cuba’s 11 million inhabitants vaccinated by year-end, Morales said.
Cuba is registering 600 to 1,000 new cases a day, well above the scores or a handful per day for most of last year. Since the pandemic started, the country has reported 68,250 cases and 401 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the world per capita.
Government critics have said Cuba should have purchased approved vaccines from abroad to kick off its immunization campaign while it completed trials on its homegrown vaccines.
The country developed a large biotech sector partly in order to become self sufficient in the face of a crippling U.S. trade embargo. Venezuela and Iran, which also face U.S. sanctions, say they will also trial the Cuban Covid-19 vaccines, which have attracted the interest of other countries like Mexico and Jamaica.
Vials of Cuba’s Abdala Covid-19 vaccine candidate during a press conference of the Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries of Cuba in Havana on March 19, 2021.Katell Abiven / AFP – Getty Images
PRESIDENT OF CUBA PRAISES PROGRESS IN IMMUNIZATION AGAINST COVID-19
The president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, praised the country’s progress in immunizing the population against Covid-19 with the use of vaccine candidates produced by the national biotechnology industry.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (r) succeeded (l and center) Fidel Castro and Raul Castro.
Havana, Cuba.- The president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, praised the country’s progress in immunizing the population against Covid-19 with the use of vaccine candidates produced by the national biotechnology industry.
The president tweeted highlighting that, between clinical trials and controlled intervention studies, thousands of Cubans are receiving the doses of Soberana-02 and Abdala, which opens the way to mass vaccination.
‘Dreaming and continuing a country: This year we will advance in immunization with our vaccines!’, he stated.
The head of state also tweeted thanking those who created the vaccines and those who produce them, ‘because they not only inject our body,’ but also sow ‘security and hope in the national soul.’
Cuban health authorities announced yesterday that 70 percent of the Cuban population will be immunized against SARS-CoV-2 between July and August of this year, thanks to a staggered vaccination strategy, which involves different population groups between 19 and 80 years.
Cuban women walk past wall with Cuban flag.
As part of the phase III clinical trials currently being conducted, 44,010 people will be inoculated with Soberana-02 in Havana, and 48 thousand with Abdala in the eastern part of the country.
The purpose is to gradually immunize the population, so that 1.7 million people will be protected against the virus between April and May. Later, the research will be extended to other population groups, in a larger trial with both vaccine candidates.
Larry Smith among dozens of victims of Detroit’s notorious “Ring of Snitches” on 9th floor of Detroit Police HQ at 1300 Beaubien
County prosecutors, Detroit police suborned perjury by jail-house informant Edward Allen, who said “100’s” of other prisoners fell victim
By Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor, with Diane Bukowski, Editor
March 22, 2021
UPDATE March 25, 2021: VOD spoke with Larry Smith today, who says he is already working to get other wrongfully convicted Michigan prisoners free. He said he has not received any compensation from the state yet, because the state fund has run out of money. But he is hopeful that he will qualify for state compensation when the fund is replenished.
Larry Smith hugs his mother Debra as he leaves prison Feb. 2. (Photo: WDIV Channel 4.)
DETROIT — Larry Smith, a victim of Detroit’s notorious “Ring of Snitches,” walked out of Michigan’s Gus Harrison Correctional Facility (GHCF) Feb. 2 after serving 26 years for a murder he did not commit. He had maintained his innocence and fought for freedom since his conviction at the age of 18.
“While I’m very excited, there’s no words that can explain how I’m feeling right now, but it’s a good feeling,” his mother Debra Smith told reporters.
She was joined by his sister and his daughter (a little girl when he went to prison), along with dozens of others outside the prison, including exonerees Darryl Siggers and Ramon Ward.
Smith read excerpts from journals he kept while incarcerated, detailing what he said was the Michigan Department of Corrections’ horrible treatment of those he left behind. Last year, he tested positive for the potentially fatal coronavirus, along with 75 percent of prisoners at GHCF (1,467 out of 1,956). That delayed an expected interview with Wayne County’s Conviction Integrity Unit in June. At least seven prisoners at GHCF have died from COVID-19, among 139 others in the MDOC.
Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy endorses Karen McDonald for Oakland County Prosecutor last year. McDonald withdrew 19 juvenile life without parole recommendations in Jan. 2021, but Worthy did not follow suit, maintaining 51 on record.
After Smith’s release, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) on Feb. 26 fined the Department of Corrections $6,300 for violations of pandemic safety protocols at the Gus Harrison CF. These included lack of an adequate infectious disease preparedness and response plan, lack of mask-wearing, social distancing, and contact identification among employees, and insufficient cleaning and disinfecting of the facility.
Smith said he planned to advocate for other wrongfully convicted prisoners, raise money for the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit, and work to fix the broken criminal justice system.
Smith’s attorney Mary A. Owens, out of Grand Rapids, worked for decades to free him. Later she was assisted by Claudia Whitman, working with the National Capital Crime Assistance Network, and now with the Wayne County CIU.
“After a thorough review of the investigation and evidence in this case, we have determined that Mr. Smith certainly is entitled to a new trial,” Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “We found that the Detroit Police Department’s informant was unreliable as well as the testimony of a key witness. . . .While we cannot state that this is an exoneration, we are very certain that the trial process was not just.”
Worthy’s office said Smith will not be re-tried because of the ‘passage of time’ since his trial in 1995. It is unclear if he will be compensated under Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act. That act allots $50,000 for year served in prison for a crime they did not commit. Seehttp://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-Act-343-of-2016.
Smith was convicted for the murder of Kenneth Hayes, 20, on March 24, 1994. Hayes, an alleged drug dealer, was fatally shot on Annabelle Street on Detroit’s southwest side.
At trial, a medical examiner testified that he took the sole fatal bullet, a .32 caliber, from the victim’s chest. The victim had been shot twice, with the second bullet exiting his arm and not recovered.
But in the face of that testimony, Asst. Pros. Robert Donaldson and police tied Smith to the murder with one .40 caliber bullet allegedly found in a laundry hamper at Smith’s home. Crime lab technician David Pauch testified that the .40 caliber bullet and seven other .40 caliber bullets found near the crime scene came from the same gun. Donaldson posited that Smith could have been firing with a gun in each hand.
The chief factor in Smith’s conviction was the coerced, concocted testimony of jailhouse snitch Edward Allen, who claimed Smith had confessed the crime to him. Allen had been housed at Detroit Police Headquarters, then at 1300 Beaubien, on the notorious 9th floor. There, inmates formulated wild concoctions claiming countless defendants suddenly confessed their guilt to them. In exchange, they had charges against them dropped or reduced, and allegedly received special privileges including extra food, time outside the jail, and sex.
Allen later recanted his testimony against Smith and others, estimating that over 100 murder convictions were obtained through the use of perjured testimony solicited by police and prosecutors on the 9th floor.
Paralegal Travis Herndon (l) and Ramon Ward (r) welcomed Lacino Hamilton (center) home from prison last year.
VOD identified Smith, Lacino Hamilton, and Marvin Cotton as victims of the “Ring of Snitches” in its article on the exoneration of another “snitch” victim, Ramon Ward, published in Feb. 2020. At the time Smith, Hamilton, and Cotton were still incarcerated, despite media exposures of “Ring of Snitches” frame-ups including the seminal 2015 article by Miguel Aaron Cantu. Smith, Hamilton and Cotton have since been released, (See links to both articles at bottom of this one.)
In his story, Cantu included links to the following letters from Allen.
“I’m one of the guys that wrote the UCLA about Detroit Homicide getting Joe Twilley and 7 0ther guys police reports and making up false statements,” Allen wrote Smith on Sept. 15, 2002.
“They got to overturn over 100 cases, newly-discovered evidence. Homicide had guys put next door to guys on the 9th floor to get info. After they show[ed] them photos of the defendants and high-tech shit. . . It’s over 100 guys with cases from Detroit that homicide set up flat out. Some of them are under investigation.”
In a letter to Judge Warfield Moore, Jr., Allen alleged that he had been “helping” the prosecution convict others for the last 16 years.
Jail-house snitch Edward Allen’s letter to Judge Warfield Moore, Jr. It is not known if Judge Moore submitted this letter for further investigation of the cases Allen cited.
“Now here is my complaint to the prosecution,” Allen wrote. “For me helping them out for the past 16 years on the following cases, the Hart Street murders, the Monica Childs Larry Smith murder case 1994 conviction, the Edward Knolton Robbery Murder Conviction, and the help I put into the 1995 Anthony Gates murder trial, I want a 3 to 5 year plea.”
At retirement party for AP Augustus Hutting (2nd from left): Judge Richard Hathaway (l to r) Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Chief Judge Timothy Kenny.
Covering the trial on the 1984 Hart Street murders of Charles and Pamela Hampton, Charlie Grace and 12-year-old Herman Robinson, Detroit Free Press writer Joe Swickard wrote that Edward Allen testified against his four co-defendants in the case. They were all convicted.
“Edward Allen, testifying with immunity from prosecution, said he, Wiley, Wilson and Goodman planned to rob ‘Rusty’s weed house’ of drugs and money,” Swickard wrote.
“Allen said he pulled out of the robbery — which netted about $200 and a pound of marijuana — while it was happening when he realized people were going to be hurt. Assistant Prosecutor Augustus Hutting told the jurors they did not have to ‘love Allen, but listen to him with an open mind . . . Sometimes, you have to cut deals. It may be better for one person to go free than five.'”
Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor who also writes for “My Life Matters Too,” also incarcerated at Gus Harrison CF:
Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor
“What kind of system of justice allows for innocent citizens to be railroad by way of lies and fabrications purposely told by a jailhouse informant looking to curry favor from police and prosecutors? The absurdity of such an unimaginable injustice pulls at the fiber of any common person’s conscience.
I am looking for the Statewide CIU, to announce its first case where an innocent person is exonerated and immediately released, and the hundreds of cases out of Wayne County currently being reviewed by its CIU. I believe when a conviction’s integrity is questionable, it must be reviewed. That includes the integrity of my own 1982 murder conviction for a killing outside the new Renaissance Center.
“No prosecutor wants to be party to knowingly convicting or keeping someone in prison that is either factually not guilty, or a case we can’t sustain,” Worthy said in 2017.
REVIEW ALL OF OUR WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS NOW!
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Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy will not withdraw recommendations that up to 54 Wayne Co. juvenile lifers get LWOP again, forcing costly hearings (Above): Wayne County’s juvenile lifers left behind without re-sentencings; top to bottom, they range in age from 73 to 26 and in years served to date from 44 to 8 yrs.
March 23 UPDATE on case of Lonnell Haywood
(Photo 4th row from top, 3rd from left). Judge Noah Hood rejects renewed life without parole sentence for Wayne Co. juvenile lifer Lonnell Haywood March 19; re-sentencing to term of years set for April 12, 2021 at 2 pm.
On March 19, Wayne Co. 3rd Circuit Court Judge Noah Hood rejected the Wayne Co. Prosecutor’s request that juvenile lifer Lonnell Haywood be re-sentenced to die in prison. Judge Hood said he would resentence Mr. Haywood to a term of years instead, on April 12, 2021 at 2 p.m. Haywood, 40, has been in prison for 23 years since 1998, since the age of 17.
Haywood admittedly killed Robert Hill when he (Haywood) was just 16. According to testimony at the hearing, Hill had been a close friend of Haywood and his family. Hill and the mother of his son even stayed with them for several months in Inkster. Judge Hood said evidence had been presented that the family situation was dysfunctional at the time, leading to several confrontations after Hill moved out.
Judge Hood noted that those advocating for a term of years for Haywood include former Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) director Patricia Caruso, Dr. Colin King, PH.D, a Clinical Psychologist specialist, and the MDOC’s expert on prison disciplinary records. Many of Haywood’s work supervisors have given him top performance grades, he said.
The late Judge Kaye Tertzag.
“What is unique is the impact of age or incompetence of youth on the ability to navigate the legal process,” Judge Hood said, referring to trial Judge Kaye Tertzag’s 1997 offer to Haywood of a plea agreement of 15-25 years, with two years for felony firearm.
“Judge Tertzag’s Cobbs evaluation gave him the opportunity to state what he thought was the appropriate sentence, without the ability to look forward to see how he will do in prison,” Judge Hood said. “At some point he [Haywood] decided to withdraw his plea. I have to believe that youth played a role.
He concluded. “The question is not so much whether he should be sentenced to life without parole or a term of years. . . but how long the term of years should be. It appears that one of the primary reasons that he is incarcerated right now is because he was 16 and 17 at the time this was happening. The Miller factors all point in the same direction, a term of years.”
Atty. Deb. LaBelle represents Michigan juvenile lifers in federal class action suit Hill v Whitmer.
Judge Hood is the successor Judge to Judge Dalton Roberson, whose LWOP resentence of juvenile lifer David Bennett, incarcerated for over 49 years, was unanimously overturned by the Court of Appeals in January. He is the son of Denise Page Hood, the chief judge of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III, the pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit. He was appointed to the bench in 2018 by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Atty. Deborah LaBelle represents Michigan’s juvenile lifers in a recently settled federal class action lawsuit, in which Mr. Haywood is a class representative (see main story below). She decried the prosecution’s insistence on a renewed LWOP sentence.
“Now the prosecutor wants to punish a child for going to trial,” LaBelle said. “They said at the time of the crime he could be released in 15 years and now, after he has shown a very, very good institutional record, they wanted to punish him with dying in prison.”
Haywood’s defense attorney Cecilia Quirindongo Baunsoe said during the hearing that she estimates 80 percent of Wayne Co. Prosecutor Worthy’s recommendations for renewed juvenile life without parole are based primarily on the original offense, not achievements while the individual is serving time. Atty. Quirindongo’s office is in Oakland County. She said she represents juvenile lifers in a variety of counties, but from her experience, Wayne County is the only one that takes such stances.
Miller hearing by Zoom on Lonnell Haywood, Fri. March 19. Judge Noah Hood (top L), defense attorney Cecilia Quirindongo Baunsoe (top R); (bottom L to R) AP Lori Dawson (wife of AP Tom Dawson, head of WCPO JLWOP unit), Lonnell Haywood at Chippewa CF, and Haywood’s family members.
Yusef Qualls, 41 (below) is a Wayne Co. juvenile lifer facing LWOP again. He was sentenced to LWOP at the age of 16 in 1996 and has spent 25 years in prison. He is currently at Michigan’s Macomb Correctional Facility.
While COVID-19 ravages MDOC, County must now hold complex “Miller” hearings costing at least one-quarter million dollars
“Wayne County is outlier” among Michigan counties; Oakland withdrew 19 LWOP recommendations, others have resentenced all to term of years
“Apresumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence,” Washtenaw Co. Pros. Savit
“I think everyone should have an opportunity to get out some day,” Ingham County Pros. Carol Siemon
24 states and the District of Columbia have outlawed JLWOP; the U.S. is the only country in the world that allows it
By Diane Bukowski
March 18, 2021
UPDATE MARCH 23: CRIME IN THE D PUBLISHED THIS STORY ON ITS INSTAGRAM PAGE, GARNERING OVER 600 LIKES AND COMMENTS SUPPORTING JUVENILE LIFERS!
Pros. Kym Worthy stood by the wrongful conviction of Davontae Sanford, 14, for four murders in 2016. Sanford was freed after nine years in adult prisons.
DETROIT– As illness and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic ravage Michigan prisons, up to 54 Wayne County juvenile lifers are learning that Prosecutor Kym Worthy has refused to withdraw her office’s recommendations that they remain in prison until they die.
Ninety-six percent of the County’s remaining juvenile lifers are Black, while the county is 40% African-American. Only 14% of Michigan residents are Black. In 2016, 93% of Wayne County’s 150 juvenile lifers were Black. Then, Worthy recommended renewed life without parole sentences for 66 individuals, the highest number in the state, now reduced only by 15 youthful offenders.
Pros. Kym Worthy with former State AG Bill Schuette.
“In February, at the request of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed notices in our pending juvenile lifer cases,” the WCPO said March 11 in a statement attributed to Asst. Prosecutor Tom Dawson. “The notices stated that at that time we were not withdrawing our motions for life without parole. Our position on these motions is not irrevocable. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has always and continues to review the cases of each of these juvenile lifers on an individualized basis in order to serve the best interests of justice for the citizens of Wayne County.”
Wayne County’s remaining juvenile lifers have already served from 8 to 44 years of their original sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated those sentences in 2012, ruling that mandatory juvenile life without parole for children under 18 is unconstitutional and should be reserved for the “rarest” cases. Worthy and former Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette led challenges by various states contending that the 2012 ruling was not retroactive, delaying compliance until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is retroactive, in 2016.
Atty. Deborah LaBelle representing juvenile lifer Anthony Jones during resentencing in 2016.
The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison. Its policies on life without parole also isolate it. Most countries allow review of life sentences after 15 years. At least 24 states here have outlawed juvenile life without parole since 2012 and more are moving to do so.
Atty. Deborah LaBelle represents the state’s juvenile lifers in a federal class action lawsuit, Hill v. Whitmer, which settled last year.
“Unlike other county prosecutors, Wayne County refused to withdraw a single juvenile life without parole intent notice despite the orders in Hill,” LaBelle said. “Proceeding with 51 requests for JLWOP is wholly contrary to the Supreme Court’s rulings that such a sentence is appropriate for only the very rarest of youth.”
Atty. Tina Olson, Juvenile Lifer Unit Manager for the State Appellate Defender Office, said, “Compared to counties state-wide, Wayne County continues to be an outlier. Part of the frustration is that we feel we are going to ‘Miller’ hearings on cases that should have settled. . . .and the WCPO is not moving on these hearings at a pace they should be.”
Most counties have either withdrawn recommendations for life without parole or resentenced their juvenile lifers to terms of years. This allows a reduction of numbers in state prisons, where social distancing is not possible, to cope with the pandemic. The MDOC reports that to date, 139 prisoners have died from COVID-19 and the majority have been infected.
“Now you’re in a position where what was a presumptively unconstitutional life sentence runs the risk of becoming a categorically unconstitutional death sentence,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said Jan. 11.
“The sentence that was bestowed on juvenile lifers did not include catching COVID, it did not include death, but that is the situation that we’re in right now.” All juvenile lifers from Washtenaw County have been resentenced to terms of years.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald withdrew 19 recommendations for JLWOP shortly after her election this year. She defeated Jessica Cooper, who had recommended that all juvenile lifers there remain in prison until death.
Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon announced last year that she is reviewing the cases of 90 LIFERS, 65% of them Black, for possible sentence reductions and release. “I think everyone should have an opportunity to get out some day,” she said.
The Hill v. Whitmer lawsuit was filed in 2010 and initially resulted in a ruling that all state juvenile lifers should be eligible for parole, but former State AG Schuette repeatedly appealed all such findings even after the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in in 2012 and 2016.
LaBelle and the Michigan ACLU settled Hill with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Nov. 17, 2020. The settlement requires that “prosecutors shall complete a new review” of the state’s juvenile lifers who have not yet been resentenced . . .and determine whether they intend to seek to re-impose a life-without-parole sentence. . .or whether they will withdraw their motion seeking to re-impose that sentence.”
The prosecutors then must notify the AG and the trial courts of those decisions, and their readiness to proceed with re-sentencings. For defendants with offenses before Dec. 15, 1998, re-sentencings must be held within 60 days of the settlement date. For those with offenses after that date, re-sentencings must be held within 120 days, The agreement requires the readiness of courts and defense attorneys.
In cases where a LWOP recommendation stands, a “Miller” hearing in front of the sentencing judge is required to determine whether factors associated with age, family, socio-economic background and other matters affected the juvenile’s culpability in the crime. Additionally, numerous scientific studies have shown that children’s brains are still developing up until the age of 25. Some states including Maryland and Washington have extended the “Miller” considerations to young people from 18 to 25.
David Bennett at age 17 going into Garden City courtroom; and at 66 today.
“To date, Michigan courts have held 220 re-sentencing hearings for former ‘juvenile lifers,'” the Michigan State Appellate Defenders’ Office reports.
“Courts have imposed 198 term of years (TOY) sentences and 22 life without parole (LWOP) sentences. Of the 22, four have been vacated on appeal, two more await evidentiary hearings ordered on appeal, and most others await appellate court decisions.”
David Bennett, 66, a Wayne County juvenile lifer from Garden City, is one of the four men whose renewed LWOP sentences have been vacated by the Court of Appeals. He went to prison at age 17 in 1972, and has already served over 49 years.
But Prosecutor Worthy recommended that Bennett should die in prison. An appeals court ruled 3-0 on Jan. 21 that Wayne County Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Dalton Roberson violated Bennett’s rights when he cited mental health as a reason to keep him locked up with no chance for parole. See:
“Indeed, the prosecutor introduced no evidence supporting that Bennett is ‘irreparably corrupt,’” said a panel of Judges Elizabeth L. Gleicher, Brock A. Swartzle, and Jane M. Beckering.
“The resentencing court clearly erred by ignoring this constitutional mandate. Treated mental illness is not a signal of irreparable corruption, and no evidence even hinted that Bennett’s mental illness created a realistic danger that he would reoffend.”
It added that Bennett has become a “productive, stable and peaceful adult” while in prison, even saving more than $40,000 through various jobs. During his last 40 years in prison, they noted, he had not been disciplined for any offenses involving violence or aggressive behavior, or for any other serious matters.
SADO attorney Tina Olson
Counties finance defendants’ legal expenses at a cost of around $50,000 or more for each case, so conducting “Miller” (mitigation) hearings for 54 defendants will cost taxpayers at least $250,000, according to one lawyer specializing in the process. That attorney said it appears that the Wayne County Prosecutor is holding so many Miller hearings to frighten juvenile lifers into settling for higher terms of years. State law recommends minimum terms of 25 years, with maximums set at 60 years.
SADO Atty. Olsen explained, “It’s a very exhaustive process, requiring significant resources in almost every case. SADO has only four mitigation specialists on staff so others must be hired and paid. Comprehensive life histories must be compiled through interviews with clients, family members, correctional workers, former schoolteachers, and others, and by collecting extensive records.”
She said experts are hired to conduct forensic psychological and neuropsychological evaluations, and an MDOC correctional expert is used to evaluate the defendant’s disciplinary history in prison. She said extensive work and expense on the part of the prosecution is also required.
Edward Sanders at rally for juvenile lifers on steps of Frank Murphy Hall, Detroit Jan. 25, 2021.
But, Olsen said, in the end, many judges are “diligently applying Miller factors and giving well-reasoned opinions that do not result in LWOP sentences.”
She also noted that the process for holding Miller hearings has been considerably slowed when judges or defendants choose to have in-person as opposed to Zoom hearings. Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny said in January that he wants prisoners to have at least tw0 negative COVID-19 tests in order to be transferred to Wayne County Jail for hearings, and that he favors in-person hearings. Olsen said there have also been problems with delays in the MDOC’s transportation of prisoners for such hearings.
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