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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Oralandar Brand-Williams

Wrongfully convicted Detroit man freed after nearly two decades in prison

A Detroit man imprisoned for nearly 20 years for the rape and kidnapping of one teen girl and the attempted kidnapping of another was exonerated Wednesday by a Wayne County Circuit Court judge.

The exoneration for Terance Calhoun on Wednesday afternoon came five days after his initial hearing was abruptly halted because a Detroit police officer approached the judge in the case, a move widely criticized by the law enforcement community.

Calhoun, who did not want to speak during the hearing, flashed a big smile following Wednesday's proceeding. His attorneys said he plans to move out of state with family.

Calhoun, 35, was wrongfully convicted, according to Wayne County prosecutors, who were prepared Friday to ask Wayne County Circuit Judge Kelly Ramsey to free Calhoun before the hearing was delayed by Ramsey.

Val Newman, deputy chief of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and head of its Conviction Integrity Unit, said Wednesday that "there were a myriad of things that went wrong that caused the wrongful conviction of an innocent man."

Newman said DNA testing in 2017 cleared Calhoun and the description of the attacker that the youngest of the two teens gave police did not match Calhoun. Newman said also Calhoun was not notified that his DNA did not match with evidence left in a condom used during the sexual assault of the youngest victim.

Ramsey apologized to Calhoun for the delay in freeing him, explaining Wednesday that her actions were in the interest of justice. "My very best to you sir," she told Calhoun.

A Detroit police officer, who Ramsey knew from prior professional work showed up at her office before the hearing, handed her documents and told her Calhoun had made a "full confession" to the crimes.

Ramsey said she did not look at the officer's documents but postponed the hearing and referred the incident to Third Circuit Court's own attorney.

Calhoun's attorney, Michael Mittlestat of the State Appellate Defender Office, told Ramsey Wednesday that what the officer did "was more befitting of a vigilante than a public servant."

Prosecutors and Chief Circuit Judge Timothy Kenny condemned the officer's actions and legal observers called the incident unprecedented.

Detroit police Deputy Chief Rudy Harper said the officer should not have approached Ramsey and the department was "working to rectify the situation."

He did not release the officer's name.

Newman said she was given the material the officer had prepared for the judge, reviewed it and found no new evidence in the case. She said the cases the CIU review undergo a "very, very intensive" investigative process.

Newman said during the hearing Wednesday that a 2007 report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry concluded that Calhoun had "cognitive deficiencies."

He was convicted of raping and kidnapping a teen girl and attempting to kidnap another girl in a separate incident in Detroit in the fall of 2006. He was waiting in the Maxey/Woodland Correctional Facility in Whitmore Lake with his attorneys on Friday expecting to have both convictions dismissed.

Calhoun has been imprisoned for 15 years. One of his attorneys, David Williams, told The Detroit News on Friday that two separate DNA tests cleared his client of the crimes.

Williams is an attorney with the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School Innocence Project.

Calhoun was convicted in 2007 of raping and kidnapping a 13-year-old girl on Oct. 27, 2006, near a liquor store on Fenkell, and of attempting to kidnap a 15-year-old girl on Sept. 26, 2006, near Fenkell and Gladstone, both in Detroit.

Both girls identified Calhoun from separate lineups, prosecutors said.

Calhoun's DNA was tested in 2007 and the test showed he was not involved in the crimes, although Williams said it is not clear why he wasn't exonerated then. His DNA was tested again 12 years later in 2019 with the same result, Williams said.

Calhoun's case was prosecuted prior to the 2009 discovery of a backlog of untested sexual assault kits found abandoned in a Detroit Police Department storage facility, and before the subsequent creation of the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office noted that "protocols implemented by the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force to review these kit cases were instrumental in assisting the CIU with the Calhoun case. Recent investigation and evidence in the case has established that Terance Calhoun did not commit the two crimes."

New evidence resulted in the identification of another man, according to a release from Worthy's office. The man has been charged with several other sexual assaults as a result of work completed by the WCPO Sexual Assault Kit Task Force, they said, but prosecutors declined to release his name.

Calhoun was represented by the State Appellate Defender Office, which collaborated with a Western Michigan University-Cooley Innocence Project.

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