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Tyrone Rogers

Other Michigan exonerations with false or misleading forensic evidence
In August 2015, 55-year-old Tyrone Rogers was accused by his 15-year-old daughter of raping her on two occasions earlier in the year in Muskegon, Michigan.

The girl, identified as TC, had been adopted by Stanley and Christine Cunningham when she was 18 months old. She had an older half-sister, DR, with whom she shared the same biological mother.

Beginning in 2014, Christine Cunningham said that TC began reaching out to Rogers because he was her biological father. From May 6 to May 8, 2015, Christine went to a church conference and arranged for TC to be with Rogers during the day. TC returned home at night.

Christine would later testify that in August 2015, TC said that Rogers had raped her during the daytime while Christine was at the conference in May.

Police were notified. TC was interviewed by Diane Adams, a psychotherapist at the Child Abuse Council in Muskegon. During the interview, TC said she had been raped twice and the assault in May was the second. She could not say when the first assault took place.

On August 24, 2015, Rogers was arraigned on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

On October 31, 2016, Rogers went to trial in Muskegon County Circuit Court.

TC testified that Rogers removed her “bottom clothing” and he removed his “bottom clothing.” She testified that Rogers held her by the neck, threw her to the ground, and inserted his penis into her vagina. TC said Rogers said something about having his children. She could not recall whether the assault lasted “a few seconds” or “a matter of minutes,” and she did not remember whether she screamed during the assault or where it occurred in the house. TC testified that she did not visit Rogers again.

TC also testified this was actually the second time that defendant had sexually assaulted her. But she did not recall when the first assault took place or whether Rogers took her clothes off.

After first saying that she did not recall whether Rogers’s girlfriend, Tara Rainwater, was present, TC then said she remembered that Tara was there. TC said that Rogers told Tara to go into another room before he assaulted TC. TC testified that she did not call for help because Tara “knew it was going on.” She admitted she could “barely remember” anything about the assault.

TC claimed that she first disclosed the May 2015 assault to DR, her half-sister. Although she did not recall precisely when she told DR, she knew that it was before she told Christine. TC said she did not disclose the assault immediately because she was afraid of Rogers. She said he threatened her and talked “about doing something to [her] family.” She could not recall, however, whether these threats were made after the first or second assault.

DR testified that in August 2015, TC told her that Rogers had raped her. DR said that when she was younger, Rogers had sexually assaulted her, too. She said, “I been through the same thing and I never wanted her to go through any of that.” DR said she could not recall how many times, but “[o]nce for sure.” She testified that she reported the abuse to the Child Abuse Council.

Christine testified that TC told her that Rogers had sexually assaulted her. Christine said she called the police the next day. She said that TC had suffered from reactive attachment disorder (RAD) from the time she was an infant. TC took medication for RAD, but when she missed her medication, TC engaged in “wild behavior” and was loud and uncontrollable, Christine testified.

Two experts also testified for the prosecution. Dr. Yvonne Mallon, a child-abuse pediatrician at the Ottawa County Children's Advocacy Center, testified as an expert in child-abuse pediatrics. Dr. Mallon obtained TC's medical history and performed a medical examination on her. TC described penile-vaginal penetration, though she did not mention bleeding or pain. The medical examination was normal; there was a “small notch” or “divot” on TC's hymen, but this was “nonspecific”—it could have been from a sexual injury or just normal development. Based on the history provided by TC, Dr. Mallon testified that she suspected pediatric sexual abuse.

Dianne Adams, a psychotherapist, testified as an expert in child-sexual abuse. She explained the theory of delayed disclosure and testified that she did not notice any “red flags” during her forensic interview of TC. Adams said TC reported that Rogers had sexually assaulted her twice.

Rogers’s girlfriend, Tara Rainwater, testified that she and Rogers were no longer in a relationship; She said that when they were together, TC would call Rogers every few weeks, and she visited him several times. Rainwater denied knowing anything about a sexual assault of TC or that Rogers told her to leave the room when he was with TC.

On November 3, 2016, the jury convicted Rogers of one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for the assault in May 2015. The jury acquitted Rogers of the other charge.

At his sentencing hearing, Roger declared, "I was falsely accused by the alleged victim; therefore, I was wrongfully convicted. I've got faith in the appeals system. At this point, that's my only option." Rogers was sentenced to 29 years to 48 years in prison.

In July 2017, a motion for a new trial was argued. The motion claimed that Rogers’s trial had been adversely affected by the failure of his defense lawyer to present evidence that DR’s allegation against Rogers had been found not credible by a family court judge. The motion raised other issues as well, including that Rogers had complained in the past to Child Protective Services that TC was over-medicated based on her behavior and that Christine had responded to complaints made to Child Protective Services about TC by saying that TC “makes stuff up.”

The motion was denied.

On September 1, 2018, while Rogers’s appeal of his conviction was pending, Pastor James Rogers, the younger brother of Tyrone Rogers, brought TC to the home of attorney Laurel Kelly Young, who had been appointed to handle Rogers’s appeal. TC gave a statement saying: “Tyrone Rogers never raped me.”

TC said that DR had coerced her into making the false allegation. TC said that DR told her that unless TC accused Rogers of raping her, DR’s boyfriend would either kill TC or take TC to Detroit and “pimp me out.” TC said she subsequently learned that DR’s boyfriend had been killed by police in Detroit when he drew a weapon on police who were investigating him for child trafficking.

“The only way I could think of to falsely accuse Tyrone Rogers was to tell my adoptive mother that he had raped me on two different occasions,” TC said in the statement.

That statement became part of the basis for a motion for a new trial. A hearing began in March 2019.

Stanley and Christine Cunningham testified that shortly after Rogers’s trial ended, TC accused Stanley and their son, Kawan, of sexually assaulting her. TC claimed that Christine stood by the door and listened while Stanley raped TC. At the time TC made this claim, she was in jail for domestic violence against the Cunninghams. The allegations were investigated, and no further action was taken. Sometime after this, the Cunninghams told TC that she had to move out.

James Rogers testified that TC called James’s nephew, Robert, and asked if she could be picked up because she had to leave the Cunningham home. James said he agreed but asked Robert to go with him because he did not want to be alone with TC. When TC got into the backseat, she apologized for “lying on my dad.” James said he recorded TC on video saying that she had been “influenced” and “misled” by DR and that her allegations that Tyrone choked and raped her were lies.

James testified that he called the appellate attorney immediately and took TC to the lawyer’s home two weeks later. At that time, TC signed the recantation affidavit.

James said TC told him that DR put her up to accusing Tyrone of rape and indicated that DR had threatened her. TC also told him that she had trouble on the witness stand because she was trying to remember what DR had told her to say.

TC wound up staying for a short time at the home of Patricia Rogers, James’s sister, but eventually, Patricia asked TC to leave because they could not get along. James said arrangements were made for TC to move into a homeless shelter.

Patricia Rogers, as well as Melanie Albring, a member of Pastor Rogers's church, also testified. They both said that TC had recanted her trial testimony to them.

In April 2019, Tyrone’s attorney requested the judge privately review TC’s Child Protective Services (CPS) records, claiming the records would show that TC made allegations of sexual abuse against her biological mother. CPS had investigated and concluded the allegations were false. The trial court agreed to review the records and also expressed concern that the parties had not been able to produce TC to testify. After reviewing the CPS records, the judge ordered one record released to the defense—an admission by TC that she had made a false allegation of physical abuse against Kawan Cunningham.

The hearing was continued and resumed in May 2019. The trial court was told that TC was avoiding testifying.

Robert, the pastor’s nephew, testified about TC’s recantation. Earnestine Gaines, Tyrone’s sister, as well as Tyrone’s niece, Connie Sullivan, both testified that TC had recanted her allegations of sexual assault against Tyrone.

Tara Rainwater, Tyrone’s former girlfriend, testified that at about the same time that TC accused Tyrone of raping her, TC came to their home for a visit. During the visit, TC became upset about not getting her way on some matter, packed her belongings, and became loud and angry.

Tara said she and Tyrone told TC she had to leave. On the drive back to the Cunninghams’ home, TC became angry again because someone had called CPS to report that she was living with DR instead of living with the Cunningham family.

At that time, the judge said that TC was an “indispensable link” needed for the hearing, and said the issuance of a material witness warrant was a possibility.

In July 2019, the judge signed the warrant. Despite a subpoena and the warrant, TC did not appear for a hearing scheduled in September. TC was finally arrested in December and testified the following day. She denied that DR had threatened her to falsely claim Tyrone raped her. She denied lying at the trial. She admitted she made the video, but said her recantation was false. She said she only recanted because she needed a place to live and believed that was the only way to get help. She insisted Tyrone had raped her.

The hearing was continued to December 2019. After obtaining immunity with regard to her accusations against the Cunningham family, TC admitted that, shortly after Tyrone's trial, she had reported to police officers that Stanley had entered her bedroom and sexually assaulted her. She admitted that she had told police officers that Christine had leaned against the door and listened while Stanley sexually assaulted her. She admitted that those allegations were not true. Regarding Kawan, TC admitted that she told police officers that he sexually assaulted her on two occasions and described the assaults very similarly to how she described the assault by Tyrone. TC also admitted these allegations were false.

She said she had made these false accusations against the Cunninghams because she had a fight with Christine, who had called the police, resulting in TC's arrest for domestic violence.

TC continued to maintain that her recantations of her claim that Tyrone raped her were false. She said she signed the recantation affidavit because she was pregnant and had nowhere to go.

In July 2020, the motion for a new trial was denied. The judge said that TC’s allegations of sexual assault by the Cunninghams occurred after Tyrone’s and therefore could not support a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence.

The court rejected TC’s recantations and accepted TC’s account that she was desperate for a place to stay after the Cunninghams told her to leave.

“The court believes [TC’s] testimony that she was willing to do or say what she felt she needed to do, true or not true, to get the assistance she needed,” the judge declared.

Young, Tyrone’s attorney, appealed and on December 17, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals granted the motion for a new trial, and vacated Tyrone’s conviction.

“When we consider all of the evidence that could be used at retrial—including the evidence from the original trial, TC's recanting statements, TC's explanations for why she made the recanting statements, and the evidence of false accusations against the Cunninghams—we conclude that a different result on retrial is probable,” the appeals court ruled. “Simply put, the case against [Tyrone] rests largely, if not wholly, on TC's credibility, and the evidence that was presented on remand discredits TC to a significant extent. If her testimony on this score is not credible, then the case against [Tyrone] collapses.”

On March 16, 2022, the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the case.

After Rogers was released on April 22, 2022, Proving Innocence, a non-profit organization in Detroit which provides assistance to men and women seeking to prove their innocence, gave Rogers $1,000 from its Walking Free Fund. In July 2022, Rogers filed a compensation claim with the state of Michigan. In 2023, he was awarded $165,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/6/2022
Last Updated: 12/12/2023
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Sentence:29 to 48 years
Age at the date of reported crime:55
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No