A Wayne County wrongful conviction program has had so much success over the last three years that it now is expanding statewide. The Conviction Integrity Unit at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has helped 27 wrongfully convicted individuals gain their freedom and exoneration since 2018. Nationwide, about 120 prisoners receive exonerations each year.
Now the Wayne County unit will serve as a model for a statewide program that will investigate wrongful convictions. The goal of the statewide program will be to review cases where individuals possibly were wrongfully convicted or accused.
Wrongful conviction unit expanding
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has been pushing for a statewide wrongful conviction program since 2019. Kym Worthy, a former Wayne County prosecutor who formed Wayne County’s unit, also has advocated expanding the successful wrongful conviction program. She also wants the state to offer the following for freed individuals:
· Housing assistance
· Free college
· Help with other daily life needs
She wants to see those freed have successful lives after their wrongful imprisonment.
Exonerated and freed
Two prisoners freed through Wayne County’s wrongful conviction unit show the value of the program:
· Larry Smith spent 26 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Investigators determined that a jailhouse informant falsely testified against him during his trail. He received a conviction without any conclusive evidence and he hadn’t even been at the crime scene.
· Eddie Khalil spent seven years in prison before a judge overturned his murder conviction. When the Conviction Integrity Unit reviewed his case, it and one of his attorneys, Wolfgang Mueller of Mueller Law Firm, uncovered vital evidence that wasn’t considered properly before.
The importance of reviewing wrongful convictions has come to the forefront of criminal justice and social justice movements in the last few years. Minorities disproportionately suffer from wrongful convictions and likely will benefit greatly from statewide wrongful conviction programs.