- 51 – Hall of Fame TV Reporter Shares Horror Stories of Innocent People Wrongfully Incarcerated
51 – Hall of Fame TV Reporter Shares Horror Stories of Innocent People Wrongfully Incarcerated
Bill Proctor is a member of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was a reporter with WXYZ news for 33 years and founded “Proving Innocence,” a project to help support people who have been wrongfully convicted after exoneration as well as investigative work. He now works directly with people who need help proving their innocence. Check out https://www.seekingjusticebp.com for more.
Mike and Kevin talk to Bill to discuss his long career of helping those wronged by the justice system. Bill shares his expertise on the national innocence movement and the projects in Michigan dedicated to helping those who are innocent. Bill also shares his frustration with the “bad science” in police work that is being reconsidered and coming to terms with the shortcomings of the justice system. His stories of these wrongfully convicted people are heartbreaking and eye-opening.
Show Notes:[00:34] Introducing today’s guest, Bill Proctor.
[01:22] Welcome to the show, Bill! We’ve previously done podcasts on Aaron Salter and Kenny Wyniemko, both of whom were wrongfully convicted. As you dig deeper into these stories, it’s mind-blowing how many things can go wrong.
[02:21] The bad lawyering that goes on is both fascinating and heartbreaking. What made you form ProvingInnocence.org and why are you spending your retirement years helping to free innocent people?
[02:50] The case of Temujin Kensu (Frederick Thomas Freeman) inspired Bill to work in wrongful convictions.
[03:40] Proving Innocence has provided money to people who leave the prison system without even pocket change for bus fare. They provide a foundation and support system to help those who have been released from prison after a wrongful conviction.
[04:38] www.SeekingJusticebp.com is an organization that talks about what is current, what is interesting, and what is relevant and tragic about these wrongful convictions.
[05:53] There is even a level of criminality when it comes to failure of police, prosecutors, bad attitudes, and politics. There’s so much that can influence people’s decisions, and that’s why we have so many issues in the criminal justice system.
[06:52] Michigan has the Innocence Clinic at UofM Law School and an Innocence Project at Cooley Law School. These are the only two organizations that have lawyers actively working on wrongful convictions, other than lawyers working out of their own practices.
[07:22] The University of Michigan Innocence Clinic is essentially a UofM Law School created element for teaching young lawyers to try to prevent and reverse wrongful convictions.
[08:08] Cooley Law is connected to the Innocence Project in New York.
[08:20] The University of Michigan Innocence Clinic looks at everything but DNA, while Cooley Law does use DNA evidence. Therefore, you have the support of two sides of actual innocence arguments.
[09:24] These organizations all residually stem from the OJ Simpson trial, and how DNA evidence used in that trial changed so many elements of the criminal justice system. It’s foundational at this point, but wasn’t accepted as legitimate evidence until the late 1980’s.
[11:40] It takes an average 11 years for someone who is actually innocent to get in front of a judge or to have someone review their claim of innocence. In many cases, 11 years is enough time for witnesses to die and be unavailable to provide testimony.
[13:44] It seems like once a person is charged, it’s game over. It feels like there’s a shift, not to find the truth, but to convict the person they charged. Do you find that’s the case?
[15:17] Sometimes the public’s need for information compelled the police do things they shouldn’t have. For example, Lamarr Monson who was convicted of murder in the death of Christina Brown.
[22:02] I know the Detroit Police Department was on federal oversight for many years. Is police misconduct as prevalent today as it was back in the day before federal oversight?
[24:27] Poor people are not getting quality legal assistance. There are so many cases that the attorneys don’t have the time or the ability to ask good questions or call expert witnesses, or even alibi witnesses.
[28:46] Walter Swift and Kensu had horrible lawyers who have both been disbarred, had addiction problems, and multiple grievances against them. Yet, they were allowed to represent people and hold their futures in their hands.
[29:38] Lawrence Greene, colloquially known as Michigan’s Worst Lawyer, was disbarred twice.
[31:30] How do you get the attention of the judges to take these cases seriously? When these judges are presented legitimate affidavits and they systematically deny them, it makes my head want to explode. Bill, your frustration level must be through the roof.
[35:43] Is there any validity to the conspiracy theories or claims that Judge Cleland does not want Kensu released? Do you think he’s pulling strings behind the scenes?
[37:18] Former Michigan governor John Engler and the guards union essentially barred news cameras from Michigan prisons forever. It’s never been overturned, even after national pressure to do so.
[38:03] Do you think that this would happen if there wasn’t so much police immunity?
[39:32] Prosecutors get sworn-in and become some of the meanest people on the planet, not wanting to hear that their prosecution may have walked down the wrong road.
[41:21] If we were to get rid of immunity would the police be more honest if they were fearful of a civil lawsuit?
[44:06] What is the jailhouse snitch situation? Does this come about when prosecutors plant people in the prison system to obtain evidence to support it? It seems like there’s an excess of snitches who manifest in every case!
[46:36] If a prosecutor has to resort to using a jailhouse snitch, it demonstrates how pathetic and weak their case is.
[47:18] There are snitches who are on a list and are shuffled around from prison to prison in order to support cases against specific people.
[51:05] It’s important for the media to call out these wrongful convictions. But, Bill, I remember you were kind of shunned when you started bringing attention to them. Now they’re in vogue and being discussed on a larger, cultural level, but they used to be very taboo!
[54:44] Real scientific evidence is being ignored and convoluted bastardizations are being used by police and prosecutors to lock people up. Facts are being dismissed in favor of fiction, and it’s maddening.
[55:31] In light of current events, and your expertise around the world of wrongful convictions, Is there systemic racism? Is it happening more often to Black people?
[57:32] What are your opinions on defunding the police?
[1:01:17] Should we open the doors to those who are imprisoned for marijuana offenses?
[1:03:16] I see a lot of people trying to give back and support the Black community against the repression it’s historically faced. When it comes to Innocence Projects and similar organizations, what are the best wrongful conviction organizations someone could support?
[1:03:38] The Innocence Project in New York has an annual $15 million – $22 million budget, and they function as the “beehive” for other innocence projects. Donations should be given to community and state organizations, like the Michigan Innocence Project. Paying more attention and spreading word personally also will help get us in a better place.
[1:05:15] Tell our listeners what SeekingJusticeBP.com is all about.
[1:06:48] The Mike Morse Law Firm wants to help support your organization’s efforts and would like to talk about a program to match contributions.
[1:09:16] Make sure to watch “The Innocence Files” on Netflix!
[1:16:30] Thank you for being with us, Bill! Thanks for all you do and I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for being on the show.
[1:16:45] Thank you for watching this episode of Open Mike. What an interesting, complicated conversation, right? I have a feeling we’ll have Bill back on the show. Make sure to go to Innocence Projects websites, Bill’s website ProvingInnocence.org and www.SeekingJusticebp.com. I recommend you investigate and read up on these cases. If you know someone who should see this episode, please like, comment, share, and subscribe. We look forward to seeing you next time!