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Michigan Innocence Clinic Seeks Pardon for Client Mark Craighead

November 21, 2017

The Michigan Innocence Clinic has submitted a clemency petition on behalf of its client, Mark Craighead, who was wrongfully convicted in 2002 for felony firearms possession and manslaughter. The petition asks Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to grant Craighead a pardon to provide relief from the undue hardship he continues to suffer.

“Mr. Craighead is innocent, continues to suffer serious hardships due to the manslaughter conviction on his criminal record, and his upstanding moral character makes him deserving of an extraordinary remedy,” said Ali Boyd, a student-attorney in the Michigan Innocence Clinic. “The courts have failed to grant Mr. Craighead relief despite the overwhelming evidence of his innocence.”

In 1997, Mark Craighead’s friend, Chole Pruett, was shot and killed in his home in Detroit. In the hours prior to his death, Pruett and Craighead went out for drinks and dinner. Pruett dropped Craighead off at home around 6 or 7 p.m. because Craighead had to work the overnight shift at Sam’s Club in suburban Farmington Hills. At some point during the night, a gunman shot and killed Pruett in his home and then stole Pruett’s truck. Pruett’s truck then was driven to Redford Township and set on fire behind an elementary school at 2:30 a.m.

On June 21, 2000, approximately three years after Pruett was killed, police investigators questioned Craighead for the third time. Following 17 hours of interrogation, he signed a statement written by a homicide investigator—what he believed to be an acknowledgement of his rights—that subsequently was portrayed as a signed confession. In 2002, Craighead was tried for the killing, even though there was no physical evidence and there were no witnesses implicating him in the crime. Craighead’s whereabouts at the time of the murder could not be verified at trial because all of the payroll records at the Sam’s Club had been destroyed by a sprinkler system malfunction. Craighead was convicted of manslaughter and served seven years in prison until he was paroled in 2009.

In 2009, seven years after Craighead’s trial, the Michigan Innocence Clinic discovered phone records clearly establishing evidence that Craighead was working inside the locked Sam’s Club in Farmington Hills the night Pruett was murdered in Detroit. These records show Craighead made a telephone call from the Sam’s Club’s break room to a friend, former Detroit sports radio personality Ike “Mega Man” Griffin, at the same time that the killer was setting Pruett’s truck on fire in Redford Township. Moreover, the phone records show that Craighead made at least three other calls that night, including two calls to his brother, from store phones while working his regular night shift hours. These records provide the documentary corroboration of Mr. Craighead’s alibi, leaving no doubt that Craighead was, in fact, locked in a Sam’s Club at the time of Pruett’s murder. Craighead filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment after discovering the new phone records from Sam’s Club, but the appeal was denied.

Craighead was and continues to be a productive member of society. Prior to his 2000 arrest, he was employed, had no criminal record of any kind, and coached football for the Detroit Police Athletic League. While Craighead has continued to serve his community since his release through his involvement with various nonprofit organizations—including SafePlace, which provides housing for homeless veterans—his ability to support himself, his family, and his community has been severely restricted by his felony conviction.

“Mr. Craighead is innocent and will spend the rest of his life with a felony record for a crime he could not have committed unless Governor Snyder uses his power to pardon him,” says Michigan Innocence Clinic Student-Attorney Peggy Fleming. “There is no other way for Mr. Craighead to get the justice he deserves.”

The Michigan Innocence Clinic, established in 2009, works to free those who have been wrongly convicted and focuses on cases where there is no DNA to test. Sixteen clients have been freed by the clinic’s efforts, and 13 of those clients have been fully exonerated. Those clients collectively served more than 200 years in prison before being freed.

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