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Kevin Lackey

Other Wayne County CIU Exonerations,%20Kevin.jpg
In the early morning of July 5, 1992, an 11-year-old girl was taken from her bedroom and sexually assaulted on the porch of her home in Detroit.

The police were quickly called, and they brought a tracking dog. The animal followed a scent from the girl’s house and ended up “alerting” at the nearby house of 18-year-old Kevin Lackey, who was on his back porch. Lackey was a friend of the girl’s family and had known the child for about eight years. He was arrested that day and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13 years of age; second-degree criminal sexual conduct; and breaking and entering an occupied dwelling with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct.

The girl said she did not know the identity of her assailant. She did not identify Lackey at a police lineup.

Lackey’s trial was in January 1993. He testified and denied any involvement in the girl’s assault. The state’s main evidence was that the dog had led investigators from the girl’s house to Lackey’s house during a time period when the assailant’s scent would have been freshest. The girl testified about what she remembered, but still did not incriminate Lackey. Her parents also testified, and said that statements the girl made to them seemed to point the finger at Lackey.

Lackey was convicted by a jury on January 26, 1993 of two counts of First Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct Involving a Person Under 13 Years of Age; Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct; and Breaking and Entering an Occupied Dwelling with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct. He was sentenced to 15 to 25 years in prison. His appeals were unsuccessful. Lackey was eventually released from prison in late 2014, after serving more than 20 years of his sentence.

Attorneys with the Innocence Project of New York began representing Lackey in 2011. The organization’s first efforts involved trying to track down a rape kit that was said to have been performed on the girl. It had not been introduced at trial, and it was never found. Then, they turned their attention to the tracking dog and found several problems with the evidence obtained through the animal’s actions.

First, the handler started the tracking outside the house, as opposed to on the porch. The handler was given a description of the suspect, which could have influenced his responses as the dog worked. In addition, the handler engaged with Lackey on his porch. This could have signaled to the dog that Lackey was a person of interest. The dog was at least seven years old, well past his tracking prime of two or three years. The handler also testified that the strength of the dog’s pull was an indication of a track’s freshness. That assertion had no scientific validity. Separately, it was not surprising that Lackey’s scent was present; he frequently walked a path between the two houses, not just to visit the girl’s family, but also to visit a nearby relative.

In early 2018, the Innocence Project presented these findings to the conviction integrity unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. After further review, the office moved to dismiss the charges against Lackey on January 10, 2019. In a statement, it said, “It is clear that the identification of Mr. Lackey as the suspect was based upon profoundly invalid dog tracking evidence that was crucial to his convictions.”

Lackey filed a claim for compensation from the state of Michigan and in 2019, he was awarded $1,186,744. In August 2021, he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages from four Detroit police officers.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 2/4/2019
Last Updated: 9/22/2021
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:15 to 25 years
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No