Innocent Detroit man free after 15 years in prison

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit man in prison for 15 years for kidnapping and sexual assault was cleared of the crimes Wednesday after authorities discovered many mistakes, including a failure to disclose DNA results proving his innocence.

"There were so many things missed along the way," said Valerie Newman of the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, who reviews Detroit-area cases that can turn out to be wrongful convictions.

Judge Kelly Ramsey approved a request to erase Terance Calhoun’s convictions in two cases from 2006 and immediately release him from prison. His earliest parole date would have been November 2023.

Calhoun, 35, declined to speak during the court hearing, which was held by video conference, but wore a big smile when lawyers Tabitha Harris and Michael Mittlestat congratulated him.

"Good luck to you," the judge said.

In 2007, Calhoun pleaded no contest to kidnapping and other charges and was sentenced to at least 17 years in prison. He was accused of targeting two teen girls in Detroit in 2006.

But a few months after Calhoun was sent to prison, tests revealed that a condom linked to an assault on the second victim had ruled him out as the perpetrator.

There is no indication, however, that the DNA results were given to Calhoun’s lawyer, Newman said.

So Calhoun continued to sit in prison. In 2019, the prosecutor’s office reviewed the case, saw the lab report and notified the State Appellate Defender Office, known as SADO.

Newman also noted that a description of the attacker as a man with braids and a puzzle tattoo didn’t fit Calhoun.

"Today is about the myriad of things that went wrong that caused the wrongful conviction of an innocent person," Newman told the judge. "There’s so many things that happened in this case that are troubling. While this is ostensibly a DNA exclusion case, there is a lot more going on here that supports Mr. Calhoun’s innocence."

It’s not clear why Calhoun pleaded no contest to the charges in 2007; his lawyer from that time is deceased.

"Police failed to consider Mr. Calhoun’s intellectual limitations," SADO said. "Neither a lawyer nor his parents were present when he gave what police claimed were incriminating statements, and his interrogation was not recorded."

Calhoun could be eligible for $50,000 from the state for every year spent in prison as a result of a wrongful conviction.

"What happened to Mr. Calhoun was a grave injustice," Harris said.

The WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project specializes in DNA cases and worked with SADO Office to exonerate Calhoun.