In a Detroit Free Press commentary, editorial writer Jeff Gerritt said a proposal by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy would “foreclose even that faint hope of justice” for innocent people in prison. Her office has proposed changing Michigan’s court rules to keep prisoners from presenting new evidence of their innocence after the first anniversary of their conviction. A convict could not file such a claim if the exculpatory evidence could have been discovered earlier with due diligence — in other words, good lawyering. Gerritt writes, “That’s a big ‘if’ in Michigan, with arguably the nation’s worst indigent defense system. Overextended court-appointed lawyers routinely fail to discover evidence that could keep impoverished clients out of prison.”
Gerritt cited the case of Dwayne Provience of Detroit. Five years ago, he was locked up in Mound Correctional Facility, facing a lifetime behind the walls. Fortunately, miracles still happen. New evidence found by the Michigan Innocence Clinic freed him last November. “If this rule had been in effect, I wouldn’t be here,” said Provience, 37, who now works in maintenance and wants to become a personal trainer. “It took almost 10 years for the truth to come out.” Established in January 2009, the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School is the nation’s only innocence project dedicated to fighting wrongful convictions without DNA or biological evidence.