gavel and handcuffs

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Prosecutors: Faulty Dog Tracking Evidence Helped Clear Man Wrongfully Convicted

2 men in Detroit had their convictions tossed.

January 10, 2019 - 9:25 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Two men were cleared on Thursday after Wayne County Circuit Judge Kelly Ramsey tossed out their wrongful convictions.

More than two decades have passed since 45-year-old Kevin Lackey was convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl. It was alleged that oin July 1992 Lackey broke into a Detroit home, took a girl from her bed and sexually assaulted her on the home's back porch.

About a year ago Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's Conviction Integrity Unit set out to prove that Lackey was wrongfully convicted, citing faulty tracking dog evidence. 

Lackey spent 22 years in prison and was released in November 2014.

At the time of the investigation, a police dog tracked evidence from the scene to Lackey's house across the street. Prosecutors pointed out that the dog tracking violated several protocols -- the tracking did not start in the proper place and the dog's handler spoke to Lackey prior to the tracking. 

On Thursday, Judge Ramsey threw out Lackey's conviction and Conviction Integrity Unit director Valerie Newman ordered that he be removed from the sex offender's registry.

"It was a horror story, to say the least. Everyone made judgments of me, I was scolded," Lackey told reporters outside the courtroom. "I want to thank my family for never giving up on me, always believing in my innocence."

Lackey fought back tears as he addressed reporters, saying he wished his father -- who went bankrupt trying to fight for his son's freedom -- was there to see him released.

Lackey's attorneys plan to file a lawsuit against the State of Michigan. They say he is entitled to around $1 million.

Another conviction was tossed Thursday, as Michael Powels was released after a little more than a decade for murder charges.

Powels, 39, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2007. It was alleged that Powels shot and killed Robert Sawyer on June 18, 2006 on Detroit's northwest side. He was sentenced to 45 to 75 years in prison.

The prosecutor's office says only one witness -- who did not even see the shooting -- linked Powels to the murder through comments he claimed to have overheard.

Through an investigation the Conviction Integrity Unit found that the lone witness, who has since died, later wrote a letter to relatives saying he had lied about the case. The letters were turned over to the unit last spring and have been deemed legitimate.

Powels should receive a new trial, prosecutors say, but this time around the evidence left in the case is "significantly weaker" than it was before the perjury.

Note: WWJ initially reported that Lackey was set free on Thursday, but later learned that he was released from prison in 2014.

READ: Lackey facing new, unrelated domestic violence charges