2 get $250K bonds pending retrials in '99 Mother's Day murder

Justly Johnson (left) and Kendrick Scott (right) sit in court at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit on Friday, September 21, 2018. They are seeking a new trial for their conviction in a 1991 homicide.

Two Detroit men serving life terms for the slaying of a woman on Mother's Day in 1999 had hopes Friday of getting released from incarceration while they await new trials.

Instead, Kendrick Scott, 39, and Justly Johnson, 43, were given $250,000 cash bonds during a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court. 

Both have proclaimed their innocence in the fatal shooting of Lisa Kindred, 35, on the city’s east side. 

Lawyers at the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan based their request for a new trial partly on testimony from Kindred's son, Charmous Skinner Jr., that Scott and Johnson did not fit the description of the man who killed his mother. The Michigan Supreme Court granted the request earlier this year.

Judge Donald Knapp said while there is no certainty that Johnson and Scott, who were sentenced to life terms, are going to be convicted again, the men face "serious charges" and bond is required.

"There is evidence that they could be a danger to the community if released on a personal recognizance bond," Knapp said. "Certainly the fact they're facing felony murder charges would provide a reason to abscond knowing that they're going to be facing a trial."

Johnson and Scott will have to wear an electronic tether if released.

David Moran, the founder of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan, said his team may file a motion with the Michigan Supreme Court over the high bond set Friday.

"We're disappointed," Moran said. "We're considering our options."

Moran said Skinner is expected to testify at the December trial.

Relatives of Johnson and Scott showed up to court Friday in anticipation of the two men getting released until their trial date.

"It's more disappointing for him than for me,"  said Tissa Johnson, Johnson's mother.

Rachel Branyon, Johnson's cousin, said she really wanted to cry.

Judge Donald Knapp oversees a hearing in the case of Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott  at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit on September 21, 2018.

In addition to Skinner's testimony, court records say two other men, Antonio Burnette and Raymond Jackson, recanted their statements to police that Scott and Johnson murdered Kindred, saying they felt pressured to give false accounts.

Skinner was in a van with his mother and his two siblings when she was shot in the heart outside her in-laws’ house on Bewick Street. 

The justices ruled that "newly discovered evidence of Skinner's testimony in conjunction with the other evidence that would be presented on retrial would make a different result probable and therefore entitled both defendants to new trials."

Scott Lewis, a private investigator and former TV investigative reporter who helped Johnson and Scott get a new trial, said he was "hugely disappointed" by their bond amounts.

 "There is a substantial amount of evidence that points elsewhere ... that somebody else committed the crime," Lewis said. "I don't think they're a threat to anybody's safety and I don't think they're a flight risk.

"They have been fighting for 19 years," he said. "To me, this is prolonging the wrongness that society has perpetrated on these guys. I'd be surprised if this goes to trial. I don't see that (prosecutors) have enough evidence to bring this to trial."


(313) 222-2027