DETROIT, Mich. - April. 27, 2022 - Today, Wayne County Judge Kelly Ramsey set aside the conviction of Mr. Terance Calhoun. Calhoun was wrongfully convicted of 1st degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, and felony firearms possession arising from a pair of criminal sexual conduct cases in Detroit, Michigan, in October of 2006. The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project consulted on the DNA testing and assisted the State Appellate Defender’s Office with submission of the case to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
DNA testing was facilitated by the State Appellate Defender’s Office. Assistant Prosecutor Valerie Newman, director of the Wayne County Prosecutor Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, moved to have Calhoun’s conviction vacated and requested dismissal of all charges. The motion was joined by Calhoun’s legal counsel, Michael Mittlestat of the State Appellate Defender’s Office.
Calhoun was convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct and felony firearms in the first case and kidnapping for the second case. Both victims gave statements and descriptions to police which did not match Calhoun. Police claimed that composite sketches matched Calhoun. Post-conviction DNA testing proved that Calhoun could not have perpetrated the crimes for which he was convicted.
During the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit investigation, biological evidence was discovered, which was material to the identity of the perpetrator. DNA from a condom found at the scene of the crime excluded Calhoun, and implicated a male contributor who is currently under investigation. The DNA testing results, along with other new evidence in the case, established that Calhoun did not commit the crime.
In 2018, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project received a $451,238 Bloodsworth grant from the Department of Justice. The purpose of the grant is to screen claims of innocence and conduct DNA testing of material evidence in appropriate cases.
“WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project has 20 years of experience in post-conviction DNA testing,” stated Innocence Project Director Tracey Brame. “Our knowledge of DNA testing, and the legal arguments that accompany DNA exclusions and undermine wrongful convictions, allows us to be a resource to innocent prisoners and their lawyers. We are honored to assist in freeing Mr. Calhoun.”
The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project has a similar grant partnership with the Michigan Attorney General Office, Conviction Integrity Unit, assisting its office with the evaluation of innocence claims.
Established in 2001, celebrating its 20th Anniversary, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project focuses on obtaining post-conviction DNA testing of material evidence, and provides legal assistance to persons who are imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is the only post-conviction DNA innocence organization in the state. Since its inception, the office has screened over 6,000 cases and is responsible for the exoneration of eight individuals: Kenneth Wyniemko (2003), Nathaniel Hatchett (2008), Donya Davis (2014), LeDura Watkins (2017), Kenneth Nixon (2021), Gilbert Poole (2021), Corey Quentin McCall (2021) and George DeJesus (2022).