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Bernard Young

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations in Michigan
In the summer of 1988, Linda T. discovered her sons, six-year-old Anthony and five-year-old Thomas, performing oral sex on each other in their home in Detroit, Michigan.

The boys were referred for outpatient counseling. When that was unsuccessful, they were referred to the Aurora Hospital for residential treatment. In April 1989, the boys told their social worker, Margareta Olsson, that between January and July 1, 1988, they had been sexually molested by 29-year-old Bernard Young, who babysat them while their mother was at work and her boyfriend, William Clark, was at the store.

The boys said that Young had assaulted them anally, performed oral sex on them, and forced the boys to perform sex acts on each other. Olsson notified police and Detroit police Sgt. Shelley Foy interviewed the boys on April 14, 1989. The boys gave statements detailing numerous occasions when they said Young molested them. The following day, Foy organized a lineup that included Young and Young’s brother, Braxter Young. Anthony identified Bernard Young, but Thomas picked someone else.

On April 18, 1989, Young was charged with 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 7 counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Following a preliminary hearing on April 27, 1989, only seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct remained.

One month later, the boys told Olsson, their therapist, that they had been sexually abused by William Clark, their mother’s boyfriend during the same time period—January to July 1, 1988. Sgt. Foy was assigned to handle this investigation as well, and the boys gave official statements on May 17, 1989. Their statements implicating Clark, however, were not disclosed to Young’s defense lawyer.

On August 4, 1989, Young went to trial in Wayne County Circuit Court and chose to have his case decided by a judge without a jury. Anthony testified that Young raped him and his brother anally, performed oral sex on them, and forced them to perform oral sex on him and each other. During cross-examination, Anthony said that Clark had hit him in the past, but maintained he was not afraid to go home.

Thomas testified similarly about sex acts with Young and his brother. But when asked to identify Young, Thomas at first said he did not see Young in the courtroom. Only when the prosecutor persisted in questioning him did Thomas finally point out Young as his abuser. Thomas admitted on cross-examination that he picked someone other than Young when he viewed the lineup.

The boys’ mother, Linda T., testified that when she went to work, Clark babysat the boys. She said that she was unaware that Young ever babysat them. She said, however, that the boys told her that Young had molested them while babysitting.

Olsson testified that when she saw the boys performing sex acts with dolls at the hospital, she asked if they had been sexually abused. After first denying any abuse ever occurred, both implicated Young.

Young testified that he had once lived across the street from the family, but moved away in 1987 after Clark accused him of breaking into the home where Clark and Linda lived with Anthony, Thomas, and a younger sister. Young denied ever babysitting the children or engaging in any sexual activities with the boys.

Young’s brother, Braxter, testified that he lived next door to the family and that he was Clark’s friend. Braxter said that he was at the home every day and he never saw Bernard babysitting there.

On August 14, 1989, the judge convicted Young of six counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. In September, Young was sentenced to 60 to 100 years in prison.

On November 11, 1989, Clark was charged with eight counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually molesting Anthony and Thomas during the same period that Young was convicted of molesting them. Wayne County assistant prosecutor Kelley Ramsey—who had handled Young’s prosecution—also prosecuted Clark.

On August 16, 1990, Clark pled guilty to two counts of child abuse for physically abusing Anthony and Thomas. The sexual molestation charges were dismissed. Clark was sentenced to probation and six months in the Wayne County Jail.

Young’s convictions were upheld on appeal and his attempts to overturn the conviction through post-conviction motions were unsuccessful.

Over the years, students at the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School worked on the case without success. Joyce Holman, Young’s sister, had also been working to prove Young’s innocence. In 2012, Holman reached out to Claudia Whitman, an investigator who heads the nonprofit National Capital Crime Assistance Network based in Colorado. Whitman began investigating the case involving Clark and then sought to locate Thomas and Anthony.

Whitman found them—by then adults in their 30s—in Florida and Kansas, and began sharing her information with the Michigan Innocence Clinic. In 2013, Thomas traveled to the Michigan Innocence Clinic and gave a sworn affidavit saying that Young never molested him or his brother. Thomas said that Clark had repeatedly sexually molested him, his brother, and their younger sister and had threatened to kill them if they ever told anyone the truth.

Ultimately, Whitman hired attorney Solomon Radner to file a motion to vacate Young’s conviction. In 2015, Anthony gave a sworn statement saying that Young never molested them and implicating Clark. He said he was so frightened of Clark that he falsely accused Young.

In May 2016, Radner filed a motion seeking to vacate Young’s convictions based on the recantations of Anthony and Thomas, as well as the evidence showing that they had accused Clark of sexually abusing them a month after they accused Young. By this point, Clark was deceased.

In August 2016, the Michigan Innocence Clinic obtained documents from the Clark prosecution through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents included an interview that Sgt. Foy had conducted in which Thomas and Anthony said Clark had sexually molested them but that Young never had. Radner then filed a supplemental motion to vacate Young’s convictions because the prosecution had failed to disclose this information to Young before his trial. “The grave misconduct of the prosecution in not disclosing this material evidence has caused an innocent man to suffer 25 years in prison,” the motion declared.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard held three days of hearings in 2016. Thomas testified that Clark had repeatedly sexually molested both him and his brother. He said Young never molested them and in fact was never at their home.

In February 2017, Judge Lillard vacated Young’s convictions and granted Young a new trial. The judge ruled that Young’s right to a fair trial had been violated by the failure of prosecutor Kelley Ramsey—who had since become a judge—to disclose the boys’ statements implicating Clark and denying that Young molested them. Young was released on bond on February 8, 2017.

On December 13, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charges. As the case was being dismissed, Judge Lillard said, “I think it was clearly a case of prosecutorial misconduct.” She added that the concealed statements of Thomas and Anthony accusing Clark were “probably never meant to be found out.”

Shortly after the dismissal, Radner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Detroit and the police department seeking compensation for Young’s wrongful conviction. It was settled in 2020 for $875,000. A claim for state compensation was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/19/2017
Last Updated: 4/13/2020
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1988
Sentence:60 to 100 years
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No