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1,000 people in Michigan prisons are innocent! Do you care?

Baptist Preacher Jeff Gravins tells the story about a church searching for a new minister. A likely candidate was invited to speak on a Sunday morning. The congregation loved his sermon, and called him to become their new pastor. Great sermon the first week. The second week, the very same sermon. The third week, the same again. The fourth week, samo samo. That prompted a meeting by the church board. Said the church’s leading elder: “We are a bit concerned that you keep preaching the same sermon every Sunday. Our question is: ‘Do you have another sermon?’ The preacher took off his glasses, folded his arms and responded, ‘I do have another sermon. But this church hasn’t obeyed the first one yet.’” I’m starting to feel that way about wrongful convictions. 20 years ago I founded this organization, while trying to free my wrongly convicted brother Maurice Carter. Ever since, I’ve been hammering on the topic. Last week, former Cooley Innocence Project Director and HFP Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon was in Jackson to hold the prison door open for Gilbert Poole, a wrongly convicted Michigan inmate who had spent 32 years behind bars. Just two days earlier, I was at the Muskegon Correctional Facility to welcome my friend Ray Gray, who spent 48 years in prison for a crime he did not commit! Does anyone care about this injustice? Best selling novelist John Grisham, who is also a lawyer, says in his book The Innocent Man (a must read!): Wrongful convictions happen every week in every state in this country. And they happen for all the same reasons. Experts agree that 3-5% of prisoners are innocent. Let’s boil down the numbers. If we have about 35,000 people in our state prisons in Michigan right now, that means we have at least 1,000 men and women locked up in our state facilities who are innocent! Let’s go to the Washington Post for something else that you should find maddening. Here’s the headline: More than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by government misconduct, study finds! In his story, WAPO writer Tom Jackman quotes U of M retired professor Samuel Gross: “Misconduct by police, prosecutors and other law enforcement officials is a regular problem, and it produces a steady stream of convictions of innocent people.” The study also found that police and prosecutors are rarely disciplined for actions that lead to a wrongful conviction. Something’s gotta happen, boys and girls, and it ain’t gonna happen if you don’t give a crap! “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Desmond Tutu

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