In March 2000, Rene Hunter was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Detroit, Michigan. Six eyewitnesses told police that the shooters were in a grey Chevrolet. A seventh witness also stated that the car was grey, and had recorded a partial license plate, but did not describe the make. The police made no arrests until three months later, when a drug addict named Larry Wiley, who was being questioned in connection with a burglary, told the police that he had witnessed the shooting. He identified brothers Dwayne and De-Al Provience as the men in the car, and said they were in a beige Buick. At Dwayne’s trial, prosecutors only presented the testimony of Wiley and the single witness who reported the partial plate, but could not identify the type of car used. Provience’s attorney failed to call any of the six other eyewitnesses, whose description of the car contradicted Wiley’s, and did not adequately cross examine Wiley. In January 2001, Dwayne was convicted by a jury and sentenced to 32-to-62-years. De-Al was acquitted in a separate bench trial.
In 2009, the University of Michigan Law School’s Innocence Clinic took Dwayne’s case. In an interview with clinic law students, Wiley recanted his identification, though he later told police the recantation was false. The Clinic students also discovered that in a 2003 murder trial, prosecutors from the same office that prosecuted Provience told the jury that Rene Hunter, like the victim in that later murder, was killed not by Dwayne Provience, but by local drug lords protecting their business. In November 2009, Provience was granted a new trial. In March 2010, charges were dismissed after Wiley invoked his privilege against self incrimination and refused to testify, and the judge ruled that the testimony from the first trial could not be used.
In April 2010, Provience filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the City of Detroit and the police officer who led the investigation. A settlement panel recommended Detroit settle the lawsuit for $5 million. Before the City decided if it would settle or proceed to trial, Detroit began bankruptcy proceedings, putting Provience in the pool of unsecured creditors who will have to wait years for payment.
- Stephanie Denzel