PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan attorney general's office said it found no new evidence to support a claim of innocence by a man who was convicted of committing murder in 1986 in a Port Huron college parking lot.
Temujin Kensu's case was examined by Valerie Newman, who heads the conviction integrity unit in the Wayne County prosecutor's office and has long worked to free people who were wrongly convicted.
Kensu, formerly known as Fred Freeman, is serving a life sentence for the fatal shooting of Scott Macklem.
“We are utterly frustrated because there is no other likely option for him at this point,” said David Sanders, vice president of Proving Innocence, a group that supports Kensu.
Kensu, now 58, insists he was 400 miles away in the Upper Peninsula when Macklem was killed. Alibi witnesses backed him up at trial, but prosecutor Robert Cleland — currently a federal judge — summoned a pilot to suggest Kensu could have committed the murder and then dashed back to Escanaba by private plane.
Newman said she had to follow criteria established by the attorney general's office: Wrongful conviction claims must be backed by evidence that was not raised at trial or during post-conviction appeals.
"I interviewed multiple people myself, with my detective, and conducted an independent investigation. ... There is nothing that qualifies as new information supporting the factual innocence claim,” Newman said in a letter Tuesday to the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school, which represents Kensu.
Proving Innocence responded with an angry letter to Attorney General Dana Nessel, saying her office had changed the standard.
“We cannot express the outrage you have generated among all those who believe true justice many times goes wrong in our court system but hoped that the CIU would make a difference,” the group's leaders said, referring to the conviction integrity unit.
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood ordered a new trial for Kensu after finding prosecutorial misconduct and other problems with the 1987 trial in St. Clair County. But her ruling was overturned by an appeals court.