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Michigan man, likely innocent of murder, may be closer to freedom

Jan 30, 2017

Lamarr Monson is a step closer to being a free man, after serving nearly two decades in prison for a murder he likely didn’t commit.

A Wayne County judge today ordered a new trial in Monson’s case. New evidence suggests a different man used a toilet tank lid to bludgeon a 12-year-old girl to death in 1996.

Monson was arrested by police shortly after the murder of Christina Brown. 

Lamarr Monson and Christina Brown were both selling drugs out of the same apartment in Detroit in 1996. Monson would eventually tell police their relationship was sexual, but he says he didn’t know she was 12.

One winter afternoon, Monson says he came back to the apartment and found a trail of blood leading to her unconscious body on the bathroom floor.

Monson says he started banging on doors, yelling for someone to call 911.

Police found a bloody knife, and concluded Christina Brown had been stabbed to death.

Monson at first denied killing Brown, but later signed a confession saying he stabbed her. 

Monson's family has always said he was tricked into signing that statement – that he was told he could go home if he just signed some papers.

A year later, the homicide inspector who oversaw Monson's interrogation was removed for illegally obtaining confessions. 

David Moran heads the Michigan Innocence Clinic. He says police did not investigate a bloody fingerprint found on the murder weapon.  The fingerprint belonged to another man.

Monson was convicted of 2nd degree murder in 1997, and sentenced to 30 years.  

The Michigan Innocence Clinic convinced police to reexamine the toilet tank lid and identified more fingerprints. None belonged to Monson.

Despite the new evidence, prosecutors have been slow to reopen the case.

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“(The Monson case is) emblematic of a system that is so reluctant to admit mistakes that it’s easier to leave someone whose bloody fingerprints are on the murder weapon free … than to admit a mistake and start over,” says Moran. “We hope that not only will the Wayne County prosecutor’s office finally exonerate Lamarr Monson, but do justice for Christina Brown.”

That may come in the coming weeks, as Monson’s case passes through preliminary court hearings.

In the meantime, Moran says Monson’s family is trying to raise $250,000 to pay his bond and gain his release while he awaits trial. 

Monson may qualify for compensation under Michigan’s new fund for people wrongfully convicted. But Moran says it’s too soon to talk about that.   

Meanwhile, Moran says the man now linked to Christina Brown’s murder is living free in Pennsylvania.