Sometimes, even after a Michigan resident pleads guilty to a violent crime, new evidence emerges that may put a reasonable doubt on whether he or she committed that crime. That appears to be the case with a Detroit man with special needs who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder related to an incident that occurred when he was 14.
A second man, a convicted professional hit man, reportedly has confessed to the killings that the defendant, now 20, allegedly confessed to. But when he tried to have his case reopened, a Wayne County judge denied his motion to have the hit man testify.
Seeking to get out of the remainder of his prison sentence, the defendant appealed. On Sep. 27, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled that the hit man should be allowed to testify -- if he agrees to do it. The judges also said the trial judge should be required to hear testimony from the hit man's defense attorney with the hit man's permission.
The appellate decision also calls into question the authenticity of the defendant's confession. After the 2007 shooting, in which four people were killed, the defendant approached police officers at the scene. He was 14 years old at the time, and living with a learning disability.
He told the officers that he had information about the shooting. But under questioning, he eventually said that he was involved. Though some details of this possibly coerced confession contradicted some evidence, prosecutors considered it genuine. They charged the teenager with first-degree murder.
The defendant later pleaded guilty to four lesser charges. Now, if the hit man testifies on his behalf, that and other evidence may clear his name. Otherwise, he will not be eligible for parole until 2046, when he will be about 53.
Source: WWJ-TV, "Michigan Appeals Court Allows Hit Man To Testify," Sept. 28, 2013