2 wrongfully convicted men awarded nearly $2M

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The state of Michigan agreed Wednesday to pay nearly $2 million to two local men who were wrongly convicted and spent years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.

Edward Carter of Ann Arbor, who spent more than 35 years behind bars for a brutal rape and robbery, will get $1.7 million in a lump sum, and Marwin McHenry will get $175,753 for spending four years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of shooting a woman in the knee.

Wednesday’s hearing in the state Court of Claims, where the awards were approved, was the first since the law took effect in March.

Carter was cleared through fingerprint evidence, his attorney said Wednesday.

He was convicted Jan. 3, 1975, of raping and robbing a pregnant student at Wayne State University, according to the University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic. Carter, who was sentenced to life in prison, was released in 2010.

Both men will receive the funds under the law, signed last December, designed to financially compensate wrongfully convicted individuals in Michigan.

The measure calls for wrongfully convicted individuals to be paid $50,000 for each year they served in prison

Michigan state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, began working on the bill in 2003. He witnessed Wednesday’s hearing, at times with tears in his eyes.

“We made history today in the state of Michigan,” he said after the hearing. “I couldn’t be happier for the people approved today.”

McHenry, 25, was released in May. He was wrongly convicted for a July 2012 shooting on Detroit’s west side.

McHenry said after the hearing Wednesday said he’s happy the ordeal is over and that he was compensated financially but added, “It’s never enough. No dollar amount is enough.”

“Really, nothing can make up for the time lost,” said McHenry. “I’m just grateful that I did get something and I’m able to start somewhere in life. I have a few plans. I got plans of engaging in a few different forms of real estate.”

Attorney Wolfgang Mueller, who represents McHenry and another man whose request was denied, said Wednesday said the money is “the first step” in getting McHenry’s life back on track.

“They can’t ever take (back) his time that he lost out of life and the harm and loss that he suffered, but it’s a good first step in getting his life back together,” he said.

But regarding his other client, James Shepherd, who was denied compensation, Mueller said, “Today you saw the good parts of the bill and the bad parts.”

In denying Shepherd’s claim for compensation, Michael Talbot, chief judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, cited a provision in the law requiring an applicant to provide new evidence that he did not commit the crime in question.

Mueller said Shepherd did not need new evidence because the case “was so bad it never should have been brought in the first place.”

Shepherd, 33, was convicted of the November 2010 slaying of alleged drug dealer Jesus Cabrera, 24. He was freed after the Michigan Court of Appeals vacated his conviction in December 2015. He has sued the city of Flat Rock and former police Lt. Jeffrey Metz, seeking at least $10 million in damages.

The hearings were held in the Michigan Court of Claims.

Both Carter and McHenry will get 20 percent of their money within the next 30 days. They are required to pay their attorney fees and will get the balance of the money within 15 days after they have shown proof that they have paid their lawyers.

Carter’s attorney, Sima Patel, said the financial settlement from the state was fair but she wishes the state had given her client additional restitution of $10,000 for time spent in jail.

“I think it was fair,” Patel said. “There are some holes (in the new law). I don’t think it was meant to compensate for mental anguish or the emotional drain or years taken (away from former inmates who were exonerated).”

About 20 other cases are waiting to be reviewed for possible financial compensation.