Man convicted on single hair freed after 41 years

2017-06-16 13:13
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Detroit - An American from the state of Michigan who spent four decades in prison was freed on Thursday after prosecutors agreed that his 1976 murder conviction hinged on the flimsiest of evidence: a single hair.

Ledura Watkins, 61, walked out of the Wayne County Jail in downtown Detroit after a court hearing in which his conviction was overturned.

"It's really surreal ... kind of unbelievable," he told reporters. "But I'm feeling great. I expected this to happen. I didn't think it would take 41 years".

Watkins was 20-years-old when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1975 shooting death of 25-year-old Yvette Ingram during a robbery at her home. Police lab analysts tied Watkins to the crime based on a single hair found at the scene, according to the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, which took up Watkins' case and asked a court in January to set aside the conviction.

Criminal justice system

The Wayne County prosecutor's office agreed that the evidence was flawed under the new FBI standard for hair comparison, said Maria Miller, a spokesperson for the office.

Marla Mitchell-Cichon, the law school's Innocence Project director, said hair comparison was not based on science.

"It is simply a lab analyst's subjective opinion and has no place in our criminal justice system. This is why a state-wide review of hair comparison cases is critical," she said.

Watkins, who worked for years to clear his name, said he was looking forward to having dinner with his family, probably at a Chinese restaurant.

"It took me years to get to this point. I don't want to touch another law book," Watkins said.

He is the second Michigan inmate to be released in recent weeks after having a decades-old conviction thrown out.


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