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  • Doug Tjapkes

Post-election: Some new in office, some stay. Wrongly convicted: They stay!

Marcia and I were watching the news one evening last week, prior to the election. The non-stop political advertising was overbearing. TV news was filled with “what ifs;” and, opposing candidates and opposing parties were issuing dire warnings. I’m an old broadcaster and an old newsman, and all that stuff is ho hum to me. But then, Channel 8’s investigative reporter Ken Kolker presented a lengthy expose' on what appeared to be a wrongful conviction. That started my blood boiling. Listening to the U of M Innocence Clinic’s fine leader, David Moran, telling a story of shoddy police work and all the other ingredients that led to locking up an innocent man ruined the evening for me. The prisoner’s name is Jeff Titus, he’s now 68. He’s been in prison 18 years, convicted in a cold case investigation. The actual crime, the shooting and killing of two hunters in a state game area, occurred 30 years ago. Those who know Doug Tjapkes know that I got into this prisoner advocacy business by getting involved in a case of actual innocence. Maurice Carter served 29 years for a crime he did not commit. Many times, when there is a wrongful conviction, the real criminal remains out on the street. That was the situation in the Carter story. Investigators in the Titus case also knew who the believed perp was. That guy, however, died in prison before this case got cleared. Here’s what I’m getting at: While participants in our nation’s wonderful system of justice plod along, taking their sweet time to get this Titus thing resolved (there’s little concern, no need to hurry, when one can sleep home every night as a free person), an innocent man remains behind bars. The national election is over, some races are still undecided. The late results and the ensuing challenges will go on ad nauseum. BUT, no matter what happens, the State of Michigan and the United States of America will continue to function. It may not be the way I like it, or the way I wish it were, but there’ll still be business as usual. Not so for Jeff Titus. Who knows when he will be freed? Who cares? I can tell you this. There’s an average of 38 innocent people sitting in each one of Michigan’s state prisons right now! Two of those facilities are 7 miles from my house. That means that, not 10 miles from where I sit, 75 guys are looking out through the bars wondering when and if they’ll ever get out. One thing is for certain: It won’t be in a hurry. I’m sickened by politics and unsavory public officials. I’m enraged by wrongful convictions. You should be, too.

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