Michigan inmate to have murder conviction dismissed after 15 years

A man sentenced to life without parole in a murder case more than 15 years ago that involved the deaths of two children in a fire will go before a Wayne County judge to be freed from his sentence, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday.

Kenneth Nixon, now 34, is scheduled to go before Wayne County Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow on Thursday for a grant of relief, a dismissal of the conviction.

Nixon was 18 when he was convicted Sept. 21, 2005, of first-degree murder and felony firearm and sent to prison without possibility of parole in the Michigan Department of Corrections on Oct. 12, 2005. 

An investigation by the Prosecutor's Office's specialized Conviction Integrity Unit found several factors that raised doubt about Nixon's guilt.

Nixon was convicted by testimony provided by an alleged jailhouse informant.

“What is highly suspect here is the use of a jail informant by a homicide officer to gain a 'confession,'" Worthy said in a statement Wednesday "The informant testified that he had no knowledge of the case from watching TV to bolster his credibility. Years later he admitted that before Mr. Nixon allegedly confessed to him, the informant had seen details of the case on television. These and other issues support the grant of relief to Mr. Nixon today.”

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Nixon was investigated in the fatal fire that claimed the life of an infant girl, Tamyah Vaughn, and 10-year-old Raylord McCulley. A childhood friend of Nixon and boyfriend of Nixon's ex-girlfriend lived in the home where the children died in May 2005.

“The issues and findings of the CIU have convinced me that Mr. Nixon did not receive a fair trial," Worthy said. "The 13-year-old witness was the victim of a devastating arson fire that killed his infant sister and his young brother in their home. The statements and testimony by this key witness were inconsistent to support what is basically the sole identification of Mr. Nixon."

Nixon's attorney hailed the efforts to free his client.

“This was a collaborative effort between our office and the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit. A vital part of the justice system is ensuring that convictions rest on sound evidence and investigative practices," said attorney David Williams of the Cooley Law School Innocence Project.