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Murder convict to get review in alleged hit man case

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Michigan Supreme Court ordered Wednesday that the state appeals court review the conviction of a man in a slaying that self-professed hit man Vincent Smothers confessed to committing.

Thelonious Searcy, 40, was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of Jamal Segars as he sat in traffic near the Coleman A. Young Airport on Detroit's east side on Sept. 5, 2004.

Vincent Smothers testifies in Wayne County Circuit Court on Monday, March 19, 2018, as defense attorney Michael Dezsi, left, and Thelonious Searcy, right, look on.

Smothers took credit for Segars' murder in 2015 and again in 2016, saying in affidavits that he, not Searcy, killed Segars, who allegedly was not his intended target. But prosecutors and a judge were not persuaded by Smothers' testimony.

After an evidentiary hearing in 2018 that included Smothers' testimony and confession in Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Timothy Kenny denied Searcy’s bid for a new trial.

Searcy's attorney, Michael Dezsi, argued to the state appeals court, arguing that the circuit court "substituted its own judgment and thus abused its discretion" in denying him a new trial.

Dezsi argued that Smothers identified Segars, provided a motive for the murder and also gave extensive "factual details" about the murder scene.

Last October, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, also turned down review of the case.

"I’m very happy that the Michigan Supreme Court gave serious consideration to the evidence that points to Mr. Searcy’s innocence," Dezsi said Thursday. "My client and I are now looking forward to the next steps to secure Searcy’s long-awaited freedom."

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Maria Miller, the spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, said Wednesday: “Now this case will go back to the Court of Appeals. The defense will file their brief and then we will file a responsive brief. The process is protracted, and we expect that it will take some time before oral arguments are scheduled.”