Mueller Law Firm has recently filed three lawsuits seeking long-overdue compensation for wrongfully imprisoned individuals under Michigan’s recently-enacted Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, MCL 600.1751 et seq. (“WICA”). The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Nathaniel Hatchett, Gregory Fisher, and Donya Davis, who served a combined 31 years for heinous crimes they did not commit.
Hatchett served 3654 days, or 10 years, in state prison for allegedly raping a woman after she got off of work in November, 1996. A decade after he was convicted, DNA test results from the victim’s husband were discovered that exonerated Hatchett. The test results were withheld from Hatchett’s defense lawyers by the prosecutor and police. Faced with clear prosecutorial misconduct allegations, the prosecutor’s office dismissed the charges.
Fisher served 5076 days, or almost 14 years, in state prison for the alleged sexual assault of his 12-year-old daughter in 2001. The daughter, who claimed she had never before engaged in sex, claimed that Fisher raped her. However, DNA results on semen recovered from the victim conclusively eliminated Fisher. A re-trial would have proven that the victim committed perjury in the previous case. The prosecutor’s office agreed to dismiss the charges.
Davis served 2566 days, or just over seven years, in state prison for the alleged sexual assault and robbery of a woman in Detroit in April, 2006. The victim identified Davis in a flawed photographic lineup, as the other individuals in the photographs were intended to look similar to Davis, instead of matching the early description given by the victim to police. Despite DNA testing of biological material taken from the victim’s thighs that excluded Davis in 2006, he was convicted in a bench trial before Judge Leonard Townsend.
In 2014, with the agreement of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, advanced-technology Y-STR DNA testing was performed on sperm obtained from the victim’s thighs. The results excluded Davis once again. Given that the victim testified she had not had consensual sex within 96 hours before the attack, and that Davis was excluded as a donor of the sperm, it conclusively proved that Davis could not have been the attacker, and that Davis was the victim of mistaken identification. On November 6, 2014, the prosecutor’s office agreed to dismiss the charges.
These cases illustrate the power of DNA to scientifically help prove innocence, while at the same time illustrating the unreliability of witness identification.