Wayne County’s Case Against Juvenile Lifer Robert T. Hinds Continues to Unravel with Key Witness’ New Admission to Bribery and Falsely Testifying
FAITH NEWS SERVICE – March 10, 2023 – Detroit, Michigan – Monday, March 6, Attorney Glenn Simmington, of the Law Office of Glenn Simmington in Flint, MI, filed a motion for Relief From Judgement (6.500) on behalf of his client, juvenile lifer, Robert T. Hinds, in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Cox (Case No. 01-00937-FC). Hinds was convicted at the age of 17 for the May 16, 2001 murder of Demond King on Cameron Street on Detroit’s East Side. For over 21 years, Hinds has maintained his innocence.
After an extensive investigation, led by Private Investigator Felicia Legion, owner of Inquiring Eyes Investigation Firm, in Detroit, MI, numerous constitutional violations and clear acts of police misconduct were uncovered in Hinds’ case, as well as other disturbing evidence supporting his decades-long claim of actual innocence. With the help of Hinds’ supporters, the investigation resulted in the discovery of a miscellaneous file that contained an overwhelming assortment of evidence that was wrongfully withheld by the Detroit Police Department Homicide Section.
The evidence found consists of usable fingerprints and palm prints, numerous documents pertaining to a previous home invasion at King’s home on Cameron Street where the perpetrators were said to be wearing clothing that said “DPD” (Detroit Police Department) and threatened to kill King, one tip sheet and investigator’s report regarding another threat to kill King, one tip sheet where another state’s witness was named as a suspect, one police report that documents that firearms were discovered when the state’s key witnesses were taken into custody and provided their statements implicating Hinds, and a document referencing one hair with the root end attached found in a vehicle that the state says was involved in the crime. None of this evidence was turned over to the defense prior to trial.
Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. The DPD has been under national scrutiny for over a decade for police misconduct. In 2008, the Detroit Crime Laboratory was closed after a disturbing audit by Michigan State Police. This audit uncovered issues that called into question the testing and handling of evidence. Paula Lytle, director of the lab at the time, was also the forensic expert in Hinds’ case. Now David Haymer, forensic expert and DNA consultant for the Innocence Project, is calling into question the forensic testing that was done by Lytle in Hinds’ case.
Haymer, who has more than 30 years of experience with the use of DNA markers in research and practical applications, asserts that the testing done in Hinds’ case was not adequate or appropriate, that the prosecutor’s statement made during trial that Hinds was linked through DNA was invalid, and that producing the hair with the root end attached that was originally suppressed in this case could provide a conclusive DNA profile that could result in exculpatory evidence for Hinds. Disappointingly, according to the DPD, the hair with the root end attached can no longer be located so that it can be tested. In addition to this missing evidence, Hinds states, “There is also a buccal swab that was used to take my DNA before I went to trial that I don’t see logged into evidence or listed anywhere. I would like to know where this evidence is.”
In the cases Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 US 83, 10 L Ed 2d 215, 83 S Ct 1194 and Kyles v. Whitley (1995) 514 US 419, 115 S. Ct. 1555; the United States Supreme Court makes it clear that the state has a duty to turn over any favorable evidence that can aid a defendant in their defense.
Shirley Saltzman, the defense attorney who represented Hinds during his April 2002 trial, acknowledges in a recent sworn affidavit that none of the evidence discovered in this miscellaneous file was ever provided to her in discovery prior to trial. Two other witnesses have also submitted sworn affidavits through their attorneys, Alan Butler and Zanita Clipper, providing evidence that Hinds could have used to undermine the prosecution’s witnesses and theory and help prove his innocence during his trial.
Butler’s client attests that a state’s witness and suspect in this case bragged about his involvement in Kings’ death and having one “his boys” tell the police Hinds committed this crime. Clipper’s client, who was the landlord of the property rented by the state’s key witness, attests to seeing one of the state’s key witnesses in the vehicle found near the crime scene the day the crime was committed. This state’s witness testified at trial that he had never driven this vehicle and that Hinds was the last person with the owner of this vehicle before the vehicle was located near the crime scene. In addition, the owner of this vehicle picked someone other than Hinds out of a lineup when asked to identify the person that last had his vehicle. Only after interacting with the Detroit police, did this witness come to court and identify Hinds.
Clipper’s client also swears that the state’s witnesses were found in possession of guns and drugs the day the property he owned on Danbury Street was raided by the Detroit Police Homicide Section while they were investigating this case. This was the same day the state’s key witnesses provided their statements to the police, implicating Hinds in the crime. The discovery of these guns and drugs was never disclosed to Hinds and his attorney prior to trial.
This evidence could have been used to impeach these witnesses and demonstrate their motivation to implicate Hinds in this case to avoid prosecution for the guns and drugs that were found during the raid. This new witness’ testimony is corroborated by a police report referencing guns that were found when the state’s two key witnesses were taken into custody and implicated Hinds. This police report was discovered among the documents in the miscellaneous file that was suppressed by the state in this case.
In 2020 Hinds presented his case to the Wayne County Conviction Integrity (CIU) to be investigated. After waiting for over two years, in November 2022, Simmington was told that the hair with the root end attached that was withheld during Hinds’ trial couldn’t be located by the DPD to have the DNA testing performed on it that he desired and that the CIU was closing his case.
Shortly after Hinds’ case was released by the CIU, Simmington and Legion began relentlessly pursuing all leads and interviewing witnesses in Hinds’ case. Legion was able to locate and interview one of the prosecution’s key witnesses whose testimony was critical in Hinds’ conviction. This witness testified at trial that he heard Hinds brag to another state’s witness that he committed this crime.
This witness now admits that he never heard Hinds brag about committing this crime and that he and another one of the prosecution’s witnesses were in fact found in possession of guns and drugs when the Detroit Police Homicide Section raided the Danbury Street residence while they were investigating this case and that he implicated Hinds to avoid being charged. This witness’ admissions are bolstered by other evidence that has been discovered in this case. This witness also revealed that he was paid $1,500 dollars by the victim’s family to continue to come to court and testify against Hinds, which creates significant doubt about Hinds’ conviction and the integrity of the investigation of this case.
The lead detective in this case was Detective Christopher Vintevoghel, who testified at Hinds’ preliminary examination that there wasn’t any fingerprint evidence in this case. Now over a decade later, Hinds has discovered that there were actually usable fingerprints and palm prints found on the vehicle that the state says was involved in this crime. The prints do not belong to Hinds, who contends that this officer’s false testimony at his preliminary examination contributed to the suppression of this evidence, which could have been used to aid in his defense at trial.
Detective Vintevoghel was a part of what was once the Special Assignment Squad (SAS), which handled high profile cases and crimes committed against police and city officials. With the lack of police oversight and accountability, Hinds says that he has serious concerns about how many other cases this officer may have suppressed evidence or committed misconduct in.
In recent years, Detroit police officers have been found guilty of misconduct. However, the exposure of their unethical actions has not triggered an investigation into the other cases that were handled by them. Criminal justice advocates argue that it’s unlikely that these officers have only committed misconduct in one case and that they often have a pattern of behavior. Hinds says that every case that was handled by an officer found committing misconduct should be reviewed to protect the judicial process and maintain its integrity.
Hinds is currently waiting for a response to his motion from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and a subsequent hearing before Judge Cox. Supporters of his exoneration have created a petition at www.change.org/freeroberthinds. The motion in its entirety along with evidentiary exhibits can be viewed at A Life for A Life Urban Initiative – Innocence Corner
Contact: Erinna McKissick Hinds
A Life for A Life Urban Initiative