DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether the recollections of a man who said he witnessed his mother's murder at age 8 should lead to a new trial for two people serving life sentences.
Charmous Skinner Jr., now 27, said the wrong men are in prison for the fatal shooting of his mother, Lisa Kindred, on Mother's Day in 1999. But two courts so far have declined to throw out the convictions.
Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott cleared a big hurdle Wednesday when the state Supreme Court agreed to hear their case.
"This is a real miscarriage of justice and I'm hoping the Supreme Court will go our way," said Scott Lewis, who began investigating the case for Johnson as a WXYZ-TV reporter in 2009. He interviewed Skinner two years later.
Johnson and Scott were convicted mostly on the testimony of two people who were under the influence of alcohol and drugs on the night of the killing. The two, who were arrested near where Kindred was shot, later recanted their testimony, according to the University of Michigan law school's Innocence Clinic.
Lewis, now a private investigator, learned that Skinner was never interviewed by police or defense attorneys, despite being in the van when his mother was slain.
Skinner made clear "that he would have cooperated if the police had questioned him about what he had seen or asked him to identify the shooter from a lineup," the Innocence Clinic said in a court filing.
In 2015, Wayne County Judge James Callahan held a hearing to get Skinner's testimony but said his recollections weren't credible.
"A reviewing court should not substitute its own opinion of credibility for that of the trial court," assistant prosecutor Thomas Chambers said in asking the Supreme Court to reject the appeal.
Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap