Man exonerated in 2001 Detroit double homicide

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — After spending 17 years in prison for a double murder he says he didn't commit, Mubarez Ahmed was exonerated Friday when a judge dismissed the case against him.

Judge Timothy Kenny of Wayne County Circuit Court acted at the request of county prosecutors, drawing applause from Ahmed's family, friends and a team from the Michigan Innocence Project at the University of Michigan Law School.

Mubarez Ahmed gets serious as he talks about his wrongful conviction as private investigator Scott Lewis, right, listens.

"It's just a great feeling," Ahmed said. "I'm just glad they dismissed it.

"Finally they did the right thing after 17 years and seven months. I'm just blessed. I'm going to call my daughter and let her know."

Exonerated Mubarez Ahmed, right, hugs and smiles with friend Tim Abdul-Matin after Wayne County Circuit Court Presiding Judge Timothy Kennedy dismissed the 1st-degree murder case against him on Friday morning, October 26, 2018. Ahmed was wrongly convicted for a 2001 murder. Ahmed spent 16 years in prison.

Ahmed, 48, thanked the Michigan Innocence Clinic, his attorneys and private investigator and former TV news reporter Scott Lewis for working to clear his name.

"Mr. Ahmed can now go on with his life," said David Moran, the clinic's director. "We're just grateful that it's over."

Co-council David Moran, left, and private investigator Scott Lewis, right, share a laugh with Mubarez Ahmed, center, as they talk to the media.

Ahmed was sentenced to 40-60 years in prison and was incarcerated at the Ionia Correctional Facility before being released Sept. 6.

ReadMan convicted of Detroit double murder released after 17 years

Ahmed appealed his conviction in October 2003 but was denied.

Later, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office Conviction Integrity Unit and the Michigan Innocence Clinic determined Ahmed's 2002 murder conviction was tainted.

Lavelle Griffin and LaTanya White were shot and killed Feb. 9, 2001, in their car at the intersection of Kirkwood and Lumley on Detroit's west side. Anonymous tips identified the shooter by a nickname. Alternative suspects were given, but Detroit police focused their investigation on Ahmed, according to the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

Based in Ann Arbor, the clinic investigates and litigates cases of prisoners who have evidence they are innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. Since it was founded in 2009, the clinic has won the release of 18 people who had been wrongfully convicted.

Years after Ahmed was sent to prison, the eyewitness who helped convict him told Innocence Clinic investigators the Detroit police detective in charge of the case showed her a photo of Ahmed just before the lineup and told her who to select.

Ahmed had some not-so-kind words for Detroit police after his case was dismissed.

"It's a shame the police just grab somebody and pin a double murder on him while the actual killer is out there killing other people," he said. "I didn't even know this officer and I don't know why he fabricated (the case against me) from the start. I had never met him in my life and I don't know why he had a vendetta against me.

"If he's listening, he should be ashamed of himself," Ahmed said. "...How about if it was your son or family who was locked up for nearly 20 years?"

The Innocence Clinic identified the suspected shooter in the case after a similar double homicide years later.  The clinic worked on Ahmed's case for nine years and on Aug. 15, Ahmed was granted a new trial after it proved lack of credible evidence in his case. 

Lewis, who worked on the case pro bono, said the evidence overwhelmingly showed Ahmed had nothing to do with the murders of Griffin and White.

"He was set up by the police and someone should be held accountable for that," he said.

Ahmed's attorney, Todd Perkins, agreed with Lewis and added the killer of the two victims in the case still has not been brought to justice.

"I hope the Detroit police and the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office will consider reopening the case," he said. "We found a lot of evidence pointing to another suspect and those two people who died still deserve justice."

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy issued a statement Friday about the case's dismissal.

“After an exhaustive review and investigation we have determined that we are unable to re-try this case, and for this reason, it was dismissed today,” she said.

Officials with the Detroit Police Department weren't immediately available for comment.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez