In my new role as a Michigan private investigator I will be doing pro bono work for the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan. Using staff attorneys and student lawyers, they work tirelessly trying to free people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. This is a noble cause.
We have the greatest criminal, justice system in the world, but it isn’t perfect and there’s no question that there are a significant number of people behind bars who don’t belong there. Faulty eyewitness testimony, government misconduct, false confessions, junk science and bad lawyering are just some of the reasons innocent people wind up in prison.
My interest in this area was peaked when I started investigating the 1999 Mother’s Day Murder of a young mom named Lisa Kindred while working as an investigative reporter at Channel 7. It was clear to me that the police investigation and prosecution were seriously flawed.
After the original investigation, I kept digging and eventually discovered and located a key witness who had been overlooked by the police; Lisa Kindred’s son who was eight years old at the time and witnessed the killing. He told me he saw the killer, would never forget his face and would still be able to identify him today. The police never even talked to him after the murder.
Lawyers from the Michigan Innocence Clinic got a sworn affidavit from the young man and that has now become a key part of their legal battle to free Justly Johnson and his co-defendant Kendrick Scott who are serving life behind bars for this crime.
What I learned from this experience is that it is very tough to reverse a wrongful conviction without slam-dunk evidence like DNA. Prosecutors and judges are reluctant, sometimes outright stubborn, when it comes to re-opening cases where the evidence clearly shows they merit a second look.
That’s why Scott Lewis Investigations will donate time and resources to the Michigan Innocence Clinic to help free people who are locked away because our criminal justice system failed.