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Black Ministers, Professionals, and Activists Join Together to Fight Police Misconduct & Mass Incarceration in Michigan

FAITH NEWS SERVICE – June 16, 2020 Saginaw, MI: On Sunday, June 28 at 4pm EST, seven well-known and respected black community members, all Michigan residents or natives, will combine their ministry, media, and professional platforms for a virtual Townhall meeting designed solely to reveal the truth behind police misconduct and the mass incarceration of black men in Michigan.

This discussion will delve deep into the history of systematic racism in the American criminal justice system and assist in expanding the national conversation around protest against police misconduct and killings to include the untold narratives of thousands of black men who have been sentenced to die in prison due to the broad scope of police misconduct. The goal is to create a greater sense of awareness and to issue a call to action to demand that Michigan police and prosecutors be held accountable for their choices.

The Townhall’s featured panelists are Ericka Taylor, PhD, Executive Director of Early Childhood for Saginaw Intermediate School District; Jimmy Greene, CEO of Associated Builders & Contractors, Greater Michigan Chapter in Flint; Reverend Dennis Laffoon, African American Lectionary with Vanderbilt University and Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Saginaw; Bryanne Standifer, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit; Breannah Alexander Oppenhuizen, Disability & Racial Justice Organizer of Michigan Disability Rights Coalition in Lansing; and Attorney Janey Lamar of The Lamar Law Firm in Saginaw.

Media personality and motivational speaker, Dwan Bryant, PhD, of DBryant Enterprises in Dallas, Texas will be the moderator.

The Townhall is sponsored by A Life for A Life Urban Initiative, a grassroots organization founded in 2013 and currently overseen by the friends and family of juvenile lifer and Detroit native Robert Hinds. Charged with first-degree premeditated murder and possession of a felony firearm at the age of 17, Hinds was convicted of both charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After maintaining his innocence for years (specifically that he had no involvement with the crimes he was convicted of) and with the assistance of supporters, Hinds discovered a miscellaneous case file maintained by the Detroit Police Department. This case file contained exculpatory evidence that was wrongfully withheld from his state-appointed defense attorney during his trial in 2001. Within this miscellaneous case file, Hinds discovered the existence of an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting his claims of actual innocence including witness statements, DNA evidence, and usable fingerprints.

After losing over 19 years of his life in prison while painstakingly pursuing every investigative lead to help gather enough evidence to prove his innocence, in April 2020, Hinds was finally able to file an exoneration application with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit that alleges to police misconduct in his case. However, things are not progressing as quickly as he had hoped.

According to a Detroit News article published on May 25, 2020, the Conviction Integrity Unit with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has been assigned to look into Hinds’ case, but assistant prosecutor Maria Miller said, “The status is that it is an open case. They have not done any work on it yet.” Unfortunately, that means an indeterminate amount of time remains for the nightmare Hinds has been living for nearly two decades now.

While Hinds awaits news of his freedom in a Michigan prison, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the lives of people across the world, including the prisoners and staff throughout Michigan’s correctional facilities. With 68 prisoners across the state already reported dead on the MDOC website, Hinds states that he especially fears that the pandemic could threaten his life before his expectant release from prison.

Concerned family and friends of Hinds have started a petition on his behalf to urge the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit to expedite the investigation of his exoneration application.

Supporters can sign the petition at www.change.org/freeroberthinds and financial donations to help support his exoneration process can be made at www.gofundme.com/freeroberthinds.

When asked why his supporters have chosen to sponsor this virtual Townhall meeting Hinds replied, “I think that this Townhall is going to be a great way to help create awareness about the truth behind mass incarceration in the black community. It’s systematic, it’s intentional, and it’s destroying lives. The justice system has failed me and so many other innocent black men like me because of police misconduct and racial injustice and the public deserves to know.” Hinds went on to say, “The bottom line is that they have stolen 19 years of my life that I can never get back. I refuse to just sit silently and let them take any more.”

The virtual Townhall meeting will be streamed via Facebook Live from the business page of A Life for a Life Urban Initiative at www.facebook.com/growingboys2men.

More information about Hinds’ exoneration journey and community service over the years can be found at www.growingboys2men.blogspot.com.

Hinds can also be contacted directly at www.jpay.com using the inmate ID 410196.