Michigan man’s exoneration after decades in prison shows importance of holding prosecutors accountable
Ledura Watkins spent 41 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
And the only evidence prosecutors had against Watkins in the early 1970’s was a single hair.
Earlier this week prosecutors agreed that single hair did not belong to Watkins, 61, and he’s a free man for the first time since he was a teenager.
According to the Associated Press, “Watkins was 20 years old when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1975 shooting death of 25-year-old Yvette Ingram during a robbery at her home. Police lab analysts tied Watkins to the crime based on a single hair found at the scene, according to the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, which took up Watkins’ case and asked a court in January to set aside the conviction.”
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office agreed that the evidence was flawed under the FBI’s current standard for hair comparison, and agreed to his release.
Watkins will be the longest serving wrongly convicted person in the United States to be determined innocent, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
And while the story had a happy ending, Watkins lost over 40 years of his life in prison on a single hair. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy deserves credit for not trying to do everything to keep Watkins locked up, but the same cannot be said for the prosecutors 40 years ago who felt justified in having Watkins locked up on such flimsy evidence.
But William Cahalan, who was the elected prosecutor in the 1970’s, died in 1990. No one will answer for this grave injustice.
And that’s why our society needs to do a better job of holding prosecutors accountable. It’s comforting to think the authorities know what they’re doing, but Ledura Watkins can tell you that’s not always the case.