Michigan man gets retrial after prisoner claims 2004 murder

DETROIT – A Detroit-area man convicted of murder has been granted a new trial after a state prisoner claimed he pulled the trigger, the Michigan Court of Appeals said Thursday.

Thelonious Searcy, 41, served more than 15 years of a life sentence for a fatal shooting in 2004, Ed White reports for The Associated Press. He always insisted he was at a family barbecue and away from the crime scene, but witnesses identified him as the shooter.

In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court said Searcy had a “reasonably likely chance of acquittal” if a jury hears the new evidence, which includes a confession letter from a state inmate with a history of murder. Evidence also shows that a bullet taken from the victim did not match a weapon confiscated from Searcy, according to the report.

“It’s a great day, isn’t it?” Searcy’s attorney, Michael Dezsi, said. “We hope the Wayne County District Attorney’s Office reads the decision and realizes that he was wrongly convicted and should be released.”

Searcy is serving a life sentence for the 2004 shooting death of a man sitting in a car near the Detroit City airport, according to the report. In 2015, Vincent Smothers wrote a letter, telling Searcy that he killed the victim in a robbery. Smothers, a self-proclaimed hitman, is serving a 52-year sentence for killing eight other people; this is not the first time he has intervened in a murder case from prison, according to the report.

While a Wayne County judge was not convinced by Smothers’ testimony, the appeals court found it to be credible because it contained specific details about the location and nature of the crimes, according to the report.

Prosecutors are considering appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court to potentially uphold Searcy’s conviction, according to the report.

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