A Detroit man was released from prison last week after almost 42 years when a judge agreed to vacate his murder conviction and dismiss all charges against him.
LeDura Watkins, a client of the Cooley Law School Innocence Project at Western Michigan University, was convicted in 1976 of a murder and robbery he and his lawyers maintain he did not commit.
Watkins’ conviction was based on microscopic hair comparison analysis, which has been discredited as a reliable scientific method by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
In addition, a codefendant that testified against Watkins in exchange for immunity also recently recanted his testimony, saying Watkins had nothing to do with the crime.
In a rare exchange in court last Thursday, Judge Bruce Morrow asked Watkins how he kept on fighting for more than four decades without losing hope.
“I couldn’t give up … too many people were fighting for me,” Watkins said, according to the Detroit News. “And a lot of them aren’t with us today. For me to give up … their work would’ve been in vain.”
Innocence Project Policy Analyst Emily Dindial has been an advocate for Watkins since his case was first brought to her attention in 2015.
“Nothing can take back the trauma inflicted on Mr. Watkins and his family by this grave miscarriage of justice,” Dindial said. “It shouldn’t have taken forty years to correct, but we are grateful for the outcome.”
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Watkins spent more time in prison than any other person in the nation who has had a conviction vacated.
Read the Detroit News coverage here.