Temujin Kensu (formerly known as Fred Freeman) was convicted in 1987 of murdering a man in Port Huron, Michigan in 1986. His defense was that at the time of the murder he was 450 miles away in Escanaba, Michigan.
Kensu’s case was taken up by the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, and Proving Innocence, a Michigan based organization that investigates cases of wrongful conviction.
After almost 24 years of incarceration United States District Judge Denise Page Hood granted Kensu’s federal habeas corpus petition on October 14, 2010. Judge Hood granted Kensu’s habeas petition based on 3 grounds:
1. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
a. Obstruction of Petitioner’s Right to Testify in his own Defense
b. Failure to Call Michelle Woodworth (his main alibi witness)
2. Prosecutorial Misconduct
a. Jailhouse Informant’s Concealment of Promises By Prosecution (Philip Joplin, who made up a Kensu confession in exchange for leniency)
3. Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel
Judge Hood’s 52-page ruling concludes:
It is hereby ordered that petitioner’s application for writ of habeas corpus is conditionally granted, unless the state takes action to afford petitioner a new trial within ninety (90) days of the date of this opinion. If no appeal is taken, otherwise, within ninety (90) days after any appellate avenues are exhausted and a mandate issued, petitioner may apply for a writ ordering respondent to release him from custody forthwith.
The State is expected to appeal Judge Hood’s ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
When notified of Judge Hood’s ruling, Kenus’ wife A’miko Kensu was overjoyed, telling reporters, “It’s been 24 years. To say you’re innocent for 24 years and to finally have someone acknowledge that things weren’t right in the trial is uplifting.”
Although there are many legal hurdles yet to overcome before Kensu is released, congratulations to the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School and Proving Innocence for their years of effort and overcoming the huge hurdle of getting a federal judge to acknowledge that Kensu didn’t receive a fair trial.
Ironically, Judge Hood found that prosecutorial misconduct was committed by fellow federal judge Robert Cleland, who in 1987 was the lead St. Clair County prosecutor in Kensu’s case.
Click here to read online or download Judge Hood’s 52-page ruling.