City Bankruptcy Threatens Michigan Exoneree’s Compensation
When a federal judge announced earlier this month that the city of Detroit could go bankrupt, it was bad news for the city, but even worse news for Dwayne Provience whose civil suit against the city for his wrongful conviction sits in limbo.
Provience was arrested in June 2000 as a suspect in the March 2000 murder of local drug dealer Rene Hunter based on testimony from someone with a drug problem who was facing prison time. Although several witnesses described the suspect’s car as being a match for two known drug bosses who had a riff with Hunter, no arrests were made prior to Provience’s. The informant testified against Provience in court, and his drug charges were dropped. Provience was convicted and sentenced to 32 to 62 years in prison.
Imran J. Syed, a clinical fellow at the
Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School
, which took on Provience’s case in 2009, discussed how the clinic proved his innocence three years ago. Clinic students were able to track down the informant living under a highway overpass and recorded him on video admitting to lying at Provience’s trial in order to stay out of prison himself. Further research by the Michigan Innocence Clinic revealed that a neighborhood police officer who had initially investigated Hunter’s murder told the detectives pursuing Provience that the informant was lying and the known drug dealers had killed Hunter. That information was withheld from Provience’s defense.
After the new evidence was presented in court, the conviction was vacated, and Provience was granted a new trial. Ultimately, the charges were dropped and Provience became a free man in March 2010. Because Michigan doesn’t have legislation that entitles the wrongly convicted to automatic compensation, he had to sue for damages.
A settlement panel proposed a payment of $5 million, which the city tried to have thrown out. Last July a federal appeals court said the suit was valid and could proceed to trial. But Detroit’s looming bankruptcy has derailed that.
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