Michigan Innocence Clinic

Shayan Sanyal/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

That’s what a case coming before the Michigan Supreme Court this week will decide.

The defendant here is Lorinda Swain, who was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing her adopted son.

But her son later told the court he’d lied about the abuse. After more than seven years in prison, Swain was let out on bond when a judge ruled she deserved a new trial.

But the Court of Appeals overruled that decision two separate times. Now the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case.

Yet  there’s a lot more at stake here than just whether one woman will get a new trial.

Bill Proctor (right) with Walter Swift, who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Bill Proctor

Bill Proctor retired after he spent 33 years as a well-known Detroit television reporter.

But rather than focus on his golf game, he's using his skills as an investigative reporter and a former law enforcement officer to help criminal cases where he believes the person has been wrongly convicted.

To accomplish that, he launched the organization Proving Innocence. As he sees it, the organization helps overturn some of the wrongs done by our criminal justice system.   

MDOC

The Michigan Innocence Clinic says a wrongfully convicted man has served nearly 20 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Lamarr Monson was convicted of brutally killing a 12-year-old girl in 1996.

But attorneys with the Innocence Clinic say Monson was forced into a false confession, and that new fingerprint evidence points to another killer, who's currently living freely in another state.

A brutal killing 

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.


Lawyers with the Michigan Innocence Clinic say they believe at least two people have been wrongfully imprisoned for child abuse because they say medical experts misdiagnosed shaken baby syndrome.

The clinic’s attorneys are representing Joshua Burns, of Brighton, and Terry Lee Caesor of St. Clair County. Juries have convicted both men of child abuse.

U of M Michigan Innocence Clinic

After serving 16 years for a crime he didn’t commit, Jamie Lee Peterson walked away from a courtroom in Kalkaska today a free man.

Peterson was convicted of the 1996 rape and murder of Geraldine Montgomery. He was sentenced to life in prison two years later. 

Prosecutors dropped the rape and murder charges against Peterson after he was cleared by new DNA evidence. The DNA evidence did implicate another man in the murder. He’s awaiting trial. 

Michigan Department of Corrections

Jeff Titus is currently serving two life sentences for a double homicide in 1990.

Two men believe Titus’ alibi that he was hunting in a different part of the state at the time the shootings took place.     The two men are the original detectives who investigated the crime.

On November 17th, 1990, Doug Estes and Jim Bennett were hunting in the Fulton State Gaming Area.  Both were shot in the back at close range.  

The shooting occurred near the property of Jeff Edward Titus.  

Michigan Department of Corrections

Attorneys today will ask for a new trial for a man convicted of a 1996 rape and murder in Kalkaska.

They say new evidence raises serious doubts about the man’s guilt.

Jamie Lee Peterson is serving a life sentence for the 1996 murder of Geraldine Montgomery. He did confess to the crime, but he later recanted.

Last year, authorities arrested another man after DNA evidence connected him to the crime.

Caitlin Plummer is with the Michigan Innocence Clinic. She says the limits of DNA testing at the time were used by prosecutors to sway jurors against Peterson.  

The Michigan Court of Appeals today heard the case of a 14-year-old boy convicted of four murders.

The court is considering evidence that the now 20-year-old man may be innocent.

In 2007, four people were shot in a Detroit neighborhood.

Police picked up Davontae Sanford, a partially blind, developmentally-delayed 14-year-old.

They held him for questioning without a parent or attorney present.

Sanford confessed and was given decades in prison.

Then, a convicted hit man, Vincent Smothers, said he - not Sanford - committed those murders.

 The human costs of Detroit’s bankruptcy are revealing themselves as the case proceeds in court.

For Dwayne Provience, it means yet more uncertainty over an already years-long wrongful imprisonment lawsuit.

When a city files for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, all its lawsuits get put on hold. That’s a good thing for the city, as it struggles to conserve cash and get its financial house in order.

Chris Lamphere / Cadillac News

He spent four years in prison after he was convicted in 2009 on an arson charge. But now he is free after a team of lawyers from the University of Michigan's Innocence Clinic proved he was wrongfully convicted.

The Innocence Clinic team said Caminata was convicted on "junk science."

The Clinic has more on Caminata's conviction:

screen grab from YouTube video

Imagine being picked up by police for a crime you did not commit. You plead your innocence, but no one believes you.

Now imagine you're convicted and sentenced to prison for that crime.

For our What's Working series, Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley spoke with David Moran, the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic, at the University of Michigan Law School, aims to overturn the convictions of people who were wrongfully convicted.

It's estimated that 1,500 people currently in Michigan prisons were wrongfully convicted.

You can hear the interview with David Moran above.

And here's a video from the Michigan Innocence Clinic on the case of Dwayne Provience who spent ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.