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Exoneree Ken Wyniemko to speak Thursday at the University of South Dakota
Posted: February 14, 2007
Ken Wyniemko, who served nine years in Michigan for a rape he didn’t commit, will speak Thursday at 4 p.m. at University of South Dakota Law School. Wyniemko, who speaks at more than 130 public events each year, will discuss his wrongful conviction and life after exoneration.
"One morning I'm at home lying in bed," Wyniemko said. "The next, I'm talking to two detectives about a rape I didn't do."
Wyniemko found himself on trial after a jailhouse snitch said he confessed and the rape victim who had never seen the face of her attacker, identified him as her attacker.
He was found guilty of 15 counts of first degree Criminal Sexual Conduct and was sentenced to 40-60 years for each count.
Read the full story here. (The Volante Online, 02/14/07)
Get details on attending the event.
Read more about Wyniemko’s case here.
Other exonerees have spoken recently about their cases and the issue of wrongful convictions:
Jeff Deskovic was convicted of murder when he was 17 years old and served 16 years before DNA testing proved his innocence in 2006. He studied the causes of wrongful conviction during his time in prison and now speaks actively around the region on a variety of criminal justice topics.
He spoke at two community events in New York yesterday, telling one group: "It's not a question of if we execute an innocent person. It's a question of when -- and how many."
Read the full story here.
Maryland exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth was the first person who had served time on death row to be exonerated based on DNA evidence. He spoke last week in Bergen County, NJ.
Read the full story here.
Interested in inviting an exoneree to speak at an event? Email us for more information.
Tags: Michigan, Kenneth Wyniemko
Michigan lawmakers consider compensation law
Posted: October 24, 2007 1:10 pm
Nationwide, 22 states have laws providing some form of compensation for wrongfully convicted people after their release. In considering a bill that would make Michigan the 23rd state with a compensation statute, lawmakers in Lansing heard testimony yesterday from representatives of the Innocence Project at Cooley Law School and two people who served time in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. The proposed bill would provide exonerees with $50,000 for each year they spent behind bars, plus lost wages, legal fees and medical care.
Although 22 states have laws, they vary greatly in the level of compensation. With this law, Michigan would join just three other states – Texas, Vermont and Alabama – in meeting or exceeding the federal standard of up to $50,000 per year of incarceration.
Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, sponsor of the proposed compensation law, said the cost to taxpayers would be relatively small because there would be very few ex-inmates eligible. But the small cost needs to be balanced against the “immeasurably huge injustice” a wrongly convicted inmate has suffered, Bieda said.Does your state have a compensation law? View our interactive map to find out.
Read the full story here. (Detroit Free Press, 10/23/07)
The Innocence Project at Cooley Law School is a member of the Innocence Network.
Tags: Michigan, Exoneree Compensation
Radio interview on bills before Michigan legislature
Posted: November 8, 2007 7:00 am
In an interview yesterday on Michigan Public Radio, the co-director of an organization that works to overturn wrongful convictions in Michigan said bills currently pending before the state’s legislature would improve access to DNA testing and help to prevent future wrongful convictions.
Donna McKneelen, the Co-Director of the Cooley Innocence Project at Cooley Law School (an Innocence Network member), said innocent inmates could possibly be denied DNA testing due to restrictions in the current law. A pending bill, HB 5089, would amend that law to remove unnecessary restrictions on applying for testing. McKneelen also said she supports the bill that would provide compensation to exonerees.
Listen to McKneelen’s interview here.
Tags: Michigan, Exoneree Compensation, Access to DNA Testing
Openings and closings: Fair justice relies on effective crime labs
Posted: November 15, 2007 12:55 pm
With two Michigan crime labs set to close in 2008 due to insufficient funding, law enforcement officials said recently that cutting back on forensic testing will have a drastic impact on the state’s ability to identify and prosecute criminals. “That’s a longer time they will be out there doing crime,” Delta County Undersheriff Ed Oswald said. “It’s not good for Michigan.”
And every time a state cuts funding for crime labs, the chance of forensic error is increased. Overburdened and understaffed labs are less able to store, retrieve and test evidence in a reliable, efficient manner. With growing demands from state DNA databases and law enforcement agencies, many labs, like those in Michigan, are stretched to the breaking point.
In Wisconsin, a murder prosecution has been held up for months while forensic testing drags on at a private lab, which was employed to avoid backlogs at state labs. Three Minnesota counties have asked the state legislature for three consecutive years to fund a new crime lab, because backlogs at the state lab have delayed investigations in the county.
Texas voters last week passed an amendment to the state constitution which allowed several state agencies to fund new projects, including a new crime lab in El Paso and increased funding for labs elsewhere in the state. Several observers of the state’s criminal justice system, however, opposed the bill because it also funds the construction of three new prisons and a new juvenile facility. Read more on the Grits for Breakfast blog.
Read more about crime lab closures in Michigan, Wisconsin lab backlogs, a new lab in El Paso and hiring in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to reduce the crime lab backlog.
Read previous blog posts on crime lab backlogs.
Tags: New Mexico, Michigan, Wisconsin, Crime Lab Backlogs
Michigan man sues police and prosecutors; alleges misconduct
Posted: January 25, 2008 4:40 pm
Claude McCollum, who was released from prison last year after serving more than a year in prison for a Lansing, Michigan, murder he didn’t commit, filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that his wrongful conviction was caused by misconduct by police and prosecutors. The suit says that police forced McCollum to implicate himself during an interrogation and that both police and prosecutors ignored and failed to disclose evidence suggesting McCollum’s innocence.
A new interactive timeline on the Lansing State Journal’s website examines McCollum’s conviction and release, day by day.
Tags: Michigan, Claude McCollum
Report says prosecutors knew Michigan man was innocent before trial
Posted: February 15, 2008 4:20 pm
A Michigan State Police report released this week by attorneys representing Claude McCollum suggests that police and prosecutors proceeded with McCollum’s 2005 murder trial despite video evidence that he could not have been at the crime scene. McCollum was convicted of the murder despite this evidence and he served nearly two years in prison before his release last year.
The Lansing State Journal reported this week that the 2007 Michigan State Police report on the case shows that a detective knew about the video evidence and passed the information to prosecutors. Prosecutors have said they didn’t see the report until the trial was underway, and that they shared it with defense attorneys.
Read the full story here. (Lasing State Journal, 02/13/08)
View an interactive multimedia feature on McCollum’s case.
Tags: Michigan, Claude McCollum
Scandal and increasing burden slow progress at crime labs across U.S.
Posted: February 21, 2008 2:45 pm
The director of the Washington State Crime Lab resigned last week after months of allegations of misconduct in the lab have cast a shadow on forensic analysis in thousands of cases. Problems were uncovered in Washington’s labs began last summer, when a whistleblower reported that quality checks on blood-alcohol tests had been fabricated. Reports have alleged that more corners were cut on the tests, rendering thousands of results unreliable. The director’s resignation does not address systemic problems at the lab.
Regardless of how many cases were affected, the public's trust in the work performed by the lab has been eroded, said Kevin Curtis, president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.The Innocence Project has proposed improvements in crime lab oversight and funding across the country to prevent mistakes and misconduct from occurring. Other labs across the country have suffered slowdowns and budget shortfalls as the demand for forensic testing has grown.
"I think a change in leadership, at a minimum, is necessary as the first step to regaining and restoring that," he said.
Batiste said that is ultimately the goal.
"We're after complete credibility," Batiste said in an interview. "We are obviously pursuing the confidence of the judiciary as well as the citizens."
Read the full story here. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 02/14/2008)
Read a Seattle Post-Intelligencer special report on problems at the Washington Crime Lab.
Learn more about the Innocence Project’s proposals for crime lab oversight reforms.
Tags: Idaho, Michigan, Washington
Michigan group seeks inmate’s exoneration
Posted: March 24, 2008 11:07 am
Nathaniel Hatchett was 17 years old when he was arrested for a 1996 Detroit area rape that he maintains he didn’t commit. He was convicted two years later and has been in prison ever since. But lawyers at the Innocence Project at Cooley Law School in Michigan have filed motions showing that DNA proves Hatchett’s innocence and arguing that he should be granted a new trial. DNA testing has shown that biological evidence from the crime scene does not match Hatchett.
"We're hoping the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office will be reasonable and release Nathaniel right away because the tests show he never should have been convicted in the first place," said Donna McKneelen, an assistant professor at the law school.
Hatchett was arrested by police two days later while driving the victim's car in Detroit with four friends. The friends were eventually released.
McKneelen said there is a likely explanation for why Hatchett was in the car.
"We believe the attacker who raped the woman dumped the car at some point. Nathaniel and his friends encountered it, hot-wired the vehicle and went joy riding. That's when they were stopped by the police," she said.
Hatchett, who was driving the stolen car, later made a confession to Sterling Heights police, which was a main piece of evidence at the trial.
But the motion filed by Thomas M. Cooley Law School shows a psychological exam indicates Hatchett had a borderline mental disability. He was questioned for seven hours which added to the stress, the defense team claims.
Read the full story here. (Macomb Daily, 03/20/08)
The Innocence Project at Cooley Law School is a member of the Innocence Network.
Michigan man exonerated by DNA testing
Posted: April 14, 2008 2:29 pm
Nathaniel Hatchett was released from prison today after serving 10 years in Michigan prison for a rape he didn’t commit, news organizations are reporting. Hatchett was convicted of a carjacking and rape in Sterling Heights, Michigan, in 1998. The Cooley Innocence Project in Lansing, Michigan, filed a motion for a new trial last month based on the DNA evidence of innocence, and today a Michigan judge granted a motion filed by prosecutors to drop all charges based on the new evidence.
The Innocence Project maintains a database of all people exonerated by DNA testing. We are currently researching the background of Hatchett’s case for inclusion in the database. He would become the 216th person exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide.
News Coverage of today’s exoneration:
Detroit News: Prisoner freed after DNA exoneration
Visit the Cooley Innocence Project website.
Prosecutor says real perpetrator identified in 2003 exoneration case
Posted: August 20, 2008 5:15 pm
A Michigan prosecutor will hold a press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. to announce that law enforcement officials believe they have identified the actual perpetrator of a rape for which Kenneth Wyniemko was wrongfully convicted in 1994. Wyniemko served nearly nine years for the crime until DNA testing exonerated him in 2003. My Fox News Detroit reported on the planned the press conference.
54-year-old Kenneth Wyniemko was wrongly convicted in 1994, before DNA tests exonerated him in the rape and robbery of a 28-year-old Clinton Township woman.Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith says the statute of limitations has expired for the 1994 rape case, but the man will be charged for other sex crimes.
He served 9 years of a 40-to-60-year sentence, but he was freed in 2003 after testing was done at the urging of the Innocence Project at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
The press conference will be held at the Clinton Township Police Department.
See My Fox News Detroit’s preview coverage
Tags: Michigan, Kenneth Wyniemko
Michigan exoneree: It's time to fix the system
Posted: August 27, 2008 2:19 pm
Writing in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday with Michigan Innocence Clinic Co- Director David A. Moran, exoneree Ken Wyniemko calls for criminal justice reforms to prevent future injustice in the state. Wyniemko was released and exonerated in 2003 after serving more than eight years for a rape he didn’t commit. Last week, prosecutors announced that the DNA evidence from the crime scene in Wyniemko’s case had proven that another man, Craig Gonser, had committed the rape.
This case exemplifies why we need to be more skeptical of eyewitness identifications and reform the procedures by which victims and witnesses identify suspects. When the victim picked Wyniemko out of a police lineup in 1994, Ken was 43 years old, 5-foot-10, and 185 pounds. The police, apparently, weren't concerned that the victim had described a much taller, heavier and younger man.
Craig Gonser, the man whose DNA was at the scene of the crime, was 26, 6-foot-6, and 290 pounds in 1994.
Those discrepancies are so glaring that they're worth emphasizing: The victim picked out a man who was eight inches shorter, 105 pounds lighter, and 17 years older than Gonser, even after giving a description that was much closer to the truth. Further, Ken bears almost no facial resemblance to Gonser.
Read about the reforms proposed by Wyniemko and Moran to prevent future misidentifications and wrongful convictions in Michigan.
Watch a video interview with Wyniemko.
Tags: Michigan, Kenneth Wyniemko
Errors in Detroit crime lab could have sent innocent people to prison
Posted: September 26, 2008 3:29 pm
Michigan officials closed the Detroit Police Department crime lab yesterday after a report found a 10% error rate in ballistic testing. Leaders called the results “catastrophic” and “appalling” before vowing to get to work to fix the problem. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said bad tests could have sent innocent people to prison.
"If we have even one person in prison on evidence that was improperly done, that's a huge problem," Worthy said. "As prosecutors, we completely rely on the findings of police crime lab experts every day in court and we present this information to juries. And when there are failures of this magnitude, there is a ... betrayal of trust."Read the Innocence Project’s recommendations for forensic oversight here.
The audit warned that if the error rate holds, "the negative impact on the judicial system would be substantial, with a strong likelihood of wrongful convictions and a valid concern about numerous appeals."
"The language may be dry, but it destroys the credibility of the firearms lab and calls into question all the lab work in general," said David Moran, head of the Innocence Project at the University of Michigan Law School.
Read the full story here. (Detroit Free Press, 09/25/08)
Michigan DNA law in jeopardy
Posted: October 2, 2008 4:45 pm
Michigan is one of 43 states with a law allowing inmates to seek post-conviction DNA testing if there is potential to prove their innocence, but that could change if state lawmakers don’t act in the next six weeks. The state’s DNA access law is set to expire on January 1, 2009, if lawmakers don’t act by the end of the legislative session. The measure, which also requires that evidence be preserved after prisoners are convicted, passed the House of Representatives, but it is stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Marla Mitchell-Cichon, the co-director of the Cooley Law School Innocence Project in Lansing, Michigan, wrote in today’s Detroit News that it is critical that lawmakers protect justice by passing this law.Watch a video of exoneree Ken Wyniemko explaining why he believes all innocent men and women should be able to prove their innocence, as he did in 2003.
Lawmakers have an obligation to Michiganians to extend a law that promotes justice and is cost-effective. The time to act is now -- before an innocent person loses his or her chance for freedom. Justice demands it.
Read the full story here. (Detroit News, 10/2/08)
What you can do:
Innocence Project supporters in Michigan are sending emails today to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to move the legislation to the full Senate. Do you have friends in Michigan? Tell them about the campaign here.
If you live outside of Michigan, please sign our petition for DNA access today.
Tags: Michigan, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing
A call to action in Michigan
Posted: October 3, 2008 4:39 pm
With five weeks left in the Michigan State Senate’s legislative session, the deadline for lawmakers to extend a critical DNA access law is fast approaching. For months, the Senate Judiciary Committee has stalled progress of a bill to extend the state’s DNA access law, which allows prisoners to apply for DNA testing to prove their innocence and expires on January 1, 2009. If the committee doesn’t send the bill to the full Senate soon, prisoners in Michigan could lose their last chance at proving their innocence.
In an article in today’s Detroit News, Michigan exoneree Ken Wyniemko calls for lawmakers to extend the right to DNA testing because there are more innocent people behind bars in the state.
"Time is running out," said Wyniemko of Rochester Hills, who is among four people in Michigan freed from prison with the help of DNA. "Nobody else should have to go through what I went through, and what the others went through."Innocence Project supporters across Michigan this week are sending letters to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Read the full article here.
Do you live in Michigan? Send your letter today.
Have friends or family in Michigan? Forward them info on this campaign so they can protect justice in their state.
Yesterday’s blog post on this issue included a video interview with Wyniemko about the pending legislation.
Tags: Michigan, Access to DNA Testing
Lawyers call for independent lab review in Detroit
Posted: October 7, 2008 2:57 pm
After Detroit officials closed the city’s police crime lab two weeks ago, prosecutors vowed to conduct an investigation to get to the bottom of the lab’s 10 percent error rate. But defense attorneys said yesterday that a review by prosecutors isn’t good enough, and they called for an independent audit of the lab before it could reopen.
William Winters, president of the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association, said he is troubled by the prospect of local prosecutors leading the investigation.
"You just have to avoid any appearance of impropriety," he said. "You really can't afford to have prosecutors reviewing their own cases."Read more about the Detroit lab closing here, and learn about the Innocence Project’s recommendations for independent forensic oversight.
Read the full story here. (Detroit Free Press, 10/7/08)
Detroit Man Celebrates Freedom When Prosecutor's Office Decides Against Retrial
Posted: March 25, 2010 3:30 pm
Law professor and co-director at the Michigan Innocence Clinic David Moran told the Detroit News that Provience is innocent and that authorities had the wrong man for more than nine years.
"He's innocent because the police had overwhelming evidence from the very first day of the crime that someone else did it: what kind of car they were driving, the license number of their car, and it all pointed to the same guys," Moran said. "And the prosecution in a different case argued that those guys did it."
"I'm just so happy right now. It feels like I'm walking out of prison all over again," Provience, 36, of Detroit said during a telephone interview en route to a Wayne County jail to have a GPS tether removed from his leg. "I'm going to be taking it a day at a time and try to get my life back on track."
Read the full article.
Provience’s original lawyer failed to seek the trial testimony of several other drivers who saw the victim shot from a car other than Provience’s, and fled in a different direction. The clinic also learned that in a related trial, another prosecutor told jurors the victim was killed by someone else. The original witness was tracked down and recanted his testimony.
Already out on bond, Provience was required to wear an electronic tracking device while working to get his life back. He is holding down two jobs as a custodian at a flea market and as a floor manager at a gym. Yesterday was the first day in a decade Provience was totally free.
A Michigan Teen Fights for Freedom
Posted: May 17, 2010 3:03 pm
Indigent Defense Suffers Another Setback in Michigan
Posted: July 22, 2010 6:21 pm
The editorial goes on to call for Michigan legislators to support proposed bipartisan legislation that would replace the state’s current patchwork defense system with statewide standards for competence and compensation.
Shoddy defense has played a role in at least two wrongful convictions in Michigan overturned through the work of the Innocence Project – those of Eddie Joe Lloyd and Walter Swift. Learn more about bad lawyering as a cause of wrongful conviction.
Improving Counsel for Indigent Defendants
Posted: May 24, 2011 1:24 pm
The editorial argues that Michigan could improve the way poor defendants are represented by following Macomb County’s system, which restricts complex murder cases to veteran lawyers. Macomb County also appoints attorneys with mid-level experience to cases in which a defendant can receive between five and 20 years in prison.
Macomb Circuit Judge David Viviano said that attorneys are assigned on a rotating basis and are informally reviewed by the judges. If the judges are not satisfied with a lawyer’s performance, the list can be changed.
But ultimately, it's up to the state to set high standards to assure that all indigent defendants are adequately defended and that their attorneys have the necessary resources. Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder should set that as a goal to attain as state revenues improve.
Read the full article.
Read the Innocence Project Report: Court Findings of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Read more about bad lawyering.
Read about Eddie Joe Lloyd’s case.
Tags: Michigan, Eddie Joe Lloyd, Bad Lawyering
Friday Roundup: False Confessions, Investigating Wrongful Convictions
Posted: February 3, 2012 4:30 pm
Tags: California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Alan Crotzer
Posted: March 8, 2012 12:00 pm
Tags: Michigan, Texas
Science Thursday - May 17, 2012
Posted: May 17, 2012 3:40 pm
Tags: North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania
Victim's Mother Relives Crime Through Wrongful Conviction
Posted: September 10, 2012 5:20 pm
Nearly three decades after her daughter was raped and murdered in Detroit, Carlotta Jackson struggles to come to grips with the false confession that sent the wrong man to prison for her daughter’s murder, reported the Detroit Free Press.
For years, Carlotta Jackson thought she'd been in the embrace of saviors -- William Rice and the other Detroit homicide officers who caught her daughter's killer with a confession, got him sent to prison and gave her some small measure of justice's comfort.
"I never questioned any of the evidence," she said. "My faith was in them. I just knew they had the right person.
"I was just so naïve," Jackson said through wracking sobs last week. "I was just so trusting. Unbelievable."
Eddie Joe Lloyd was convicted of the 1984 crime and spent 17 years behind bars before DNA evidence proved his innocence and led to his release in 2002. Lloyd, who was receiving treatment for mental illness at the time the crimes were reported in the news, wrote to police with suggestions on how to solve various murders, including the murder of Michelle Jackson.
Police officers visited and interrogated him several times in the hospital. During the course of these interrogations, police officers allowed Lloyd to believe that, by confessing and getting arrested, he would help them "smoke out" the real perpetrator. They fed him details that he could not have known, including the location of the body, the type of jeans the victim was wearing, a description of earrings the victim wore, and other details from the crime scene. Lloyd signed a written confession and gave a tape recorded statement as well.
The relief Jackson and her family felt when Lloyd was convicted was quashed when DNA evidence cleared him of the crimes almost two decades later. Her daughter’s murder is still considered an open case. Carlotta Jackson is plagued by the uncertainties that surround her death and wonders if she will ever know the truth.
Lloyd filed a suit against the city and Wayne County in federal court, naming homicide detective William Rice and others who coerced his false confession. Lloyd died while the case was pending, and his estate was awarded $3.25-million in a settlement that dismissed the claims against the officers. Rice currently faces criminal enterprise, fraud, conspiracy and drug charges.
Read the full article.
Read more about Eddie Joe Lloyd’s case.
Understand The Causes: How False Confessions Happen
Tags: Michigan, Eddie Joe Lloyd
Science Thursday - December 20, 2012
Posted: December 20, 2012 2:00 pm
Tags: North Carolina, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Science Thursday