Judge tosses convictions of two Detroit men

Detroit — Kevin E. Lackey spent 22 years behind prison walls for a rape involving an 11-year-old girl that authorities now believe he never committed.

Kevin Lackey, who had a criminal sexual conduct conviction dismissed, hugs his daughter Shannen Lackey, 27, and his brother Prince Lackey, 58, after the hearing.

Lackey said he began to fight his conviction "from Day One."

On Thursday, a Wayne County judge dismissed the charges against Lackey after it was determined that the canine evidence used to convict the now 45-year-old Detroit man in the 1992 rape was faulty.

It was one of two cases dismissed against long-held convictions Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court: Judge Kelly Ramsey also threw out the murder conviction of Detroiter Michael Powels for a 2006 slaying after it was discovered that a witness who fingered Powels had perjured himself.

Through tears, Lackey spoke to Ramsey about his and his family's fight to free him from a conviction and prison sentence he felt was unjust.

Lackey thanked his 78-year-old mother, Mary, who sat in a wheelchair in Ramsey's courtroom Thursday surrounded by other emotional family members who came to see Lackey's name be cleared.

"I want to thank my family for never giving up on me," Lackey said. "My father ... went bankrupt ... never giving up on me ...believing in his son. I wish he could be here to see this moment. My father wagered his house ... everything to try to free me. He told me he wouldn't die until I came home."

Lackey, who now works rehabbing homes for a local property management company, was released from prison in November 2014 after serving 22 years.

An emotional Kevin Lackey delivers his impact statement, talking about how being wrongfully convicted changed his life and how grateful he is to be free.

In the incident for which Lackey was convicted, an 11-year-old girl was carried her from her bed and sexually assaulted on the back porch of her home on July 5, 1992. Following the assault, the attacker left the house and the girl awakened her mother, who called police.

A police dog tracked alleged evidence at the scene to Lackey's home across the alley from the girl's home. The child was not able to identity her attacker. Lackey was a family friend of the girl's family and had been at their home many times, but the child did not identify him in a lineup.

Lackey's attorney said the dog "went right past" Lackey during an investigation and did not pick up anything from him.

The charges were officially dismissed against him. Lackey's name also will be removed from the Sex Offender Registry.

Lackey thanked the Innocence Project in New York for "bringing my truth to the forefront." He sought help from the organization in his continuing efforts to fight the rape conviction n 2008.

Mary Lackey said she didn't think the day would come "but I know it should have ... it should have. Much sooner."

"Today shows that the system works," said Lackey's attorney Wolf Mueller. "Today shows the dedication Kym Worthy's office has to righting wrongs."

Mueller said he intends to file a lawsuit to get Lackey compensation for the 22 years he spent behind bars. He estimates Lackey could receive at least $1 million as a result of a wrongful conviction.

Michael Powels, right, and his attorney Phillip Comorski are all smiles after Judge Kelly Ramsey dismissed his 2007 second degree murder conviction.***Wayne County Prosecutor's Office will ask Judge Kelly Ramsey to dismiss convictions against two men: Kevin Lackey, who spent 21 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct, and Michael Powels, convicted of second-degree murder in 2007. Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. January 10, 2019, Detroit, Mi. (Clarence Tabb Jr./The Detroit News)

In Powels' case, he was convicted of killing Robert Sawyer at the intersection of 14th Street and Clairmount on Detroit's west side. The conviction was based on the identification by a man who did not witness the fatal shooting.

Powels was convicted in 2007 by a Wayne County jury of second-degree murder of Sawyer. Powels' lawyer attempted to present an alibi but it was denied by the court. Powels, now 39, was sentenced in January 2008 to 45 to 75 years in prison.

It was later found, after Powels was in prison, that the so-called witness had perjured himself in his testimony.

Michael Powels gives his victim impact statement, saying, "I'm just blessed that I can get back to my family again, live life again and be a productive member of society."

Valerie Newman, the head of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office's Conviction Integrity Unit,  told the judge that her office found evidence in the case "that undermines the integrity of the conviction."

Powels told Ramsey, "I'm just  grateful. I'm just blessed that I can get back to my family again, live life again and be a productive member of society."

He said there are many other men like himself behind bars who feel they have been wrongfully convicted.

"It's just a sad situation," said Powels.

Outside the courtroom, Powels' mother, Kay, said: "I kept praying."

"I'm overwhelmed," said his sister Tarsheema Powels. "We thank God for this."

Symone Brogdon, Powels' 19-year-old daughter, said: "My Dad has been away from me for 13 years, so this is just a blessing to me."

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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