DONYELLE FERDINAND WOODS Donyelle's is a complicated case that involves several of the elements that are common red flags for spotting cases of wrongful conviction. He was convicted in 2004 for a murder at a gas station in Detroit. The sole witness against him at trial was a prostitute and crack addict who claimed to have seen the shooting. Her testimony was weak and contradictory, and Donyelle's first trial ended with a hung jury. He was tried again, however, and convicted.
The Clinic began investigating the case in late 2009 and soon discovered more new evidence of Donyelle's innocence than anyone could have expected. The sole witness against Donyelle recanted her testimony and admitted she lied at trial because she was pressured and bribed by the police. The Clinic also found that police had hidden from the defense information about alternative suspects, even though the victim's own family told police of other people that may have been involved in the murder.
The Clinic filed a motion for relief from judgment in May 2010 in the Wayne County Circuit Court. A hearing was held before the Hon. Patricia Fresard in May 2011. Judge Freseard denied the motion in June 2011, but the Clinic filed a motion for reconsideration. That motion remains pending before Judge Fresard, as of May 2012.
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