Another wrongful conviction — and a chance for Worthy to step up
Jamal Segars and his friend Brian Minner were shot near the Detroit airport in 2004. Thelonious “Shaun” Searcy became the prime suspect, and investigator theorized he had meant to kill someone else and shot Segars and Minner by mistake. Officers from the scene were unable to identify Searcy, but four other random eye-witnesses did. Searcy presented eight eyewitnesses who placed him at a family barbeque.
Despite what would appear to be solid alibi evidence, then-25-year-old Searcy was convicted to first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.
Since then, Searcy has filed any number of appeals to get his case back before a court, but they have all been denied, many by the same judge who oversaw his conviction in the first place. Witnesses have confessed to being threatened, coerced and bribed.
Then, a break came.
Vincent Smothers is a professional hit man who is serving multiple 50–100 year sentences for several murders. He took the rap for four shootings for which the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office had wrongfully convicted 14-year-old Davontae Sanford. Sanford was exonerated last year. At the time of Sanford’s arrest in 2007, Smothers had already admitted guilt and tried to confess to the police. But, during Sanford’s appeals, Worthy’s office never gave much credence to Smothers’s confession, instead attributing her decision to drop the case to law enforcement perjury.
In 2015, Smothers wrote a note to Searcy. “I have discovered your name while searching through cases in the law library about prosecutorial misconduct,” he said, explaining that he had committed the 2004 double shooting. In 2016, Searcy filed a motion requesting a new trial based on this evidence. A taped interview and signed affidavit contain Vincent Smothers’s confession with details.
There are other reasons to be suspicious of Searcy’s case beyond Smothers’s confession. Two key players in Sanford’s botched conviction — Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Patrick Muscat and Detroit Police Homicide Investigator Dale Collins– were also part of Searcy’s trial. In his filings, Searcy alleges multiple counts of misconduct by law enforcement as well as poor representation by his defense attorney, Robert Mitchell, who died in December of 2016. There are also allegations that one of the lead witnesses against Searcy had a motive to lie that was concealed by prosecutors.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has agreed to an evidentiary hearingin Searcy’s case although no date has been set. Her response motion mostly recounts the trial testimony of the witnesses.
I’ve written previously about another wrongful conviction of another man in Detroit, opposed by Kym Worthy. The corrupt practices of Detroit law enforcement over the decades led to excessively harsh sentences and bad cases. How many more innocent people are in Michigan’s prisons waiting for their day?