Saturday, December 13, 2008
Legal unit to monitor Detroit gun cases
City to pay $800,000 yearly to investigate new evidence, convictions that used lab evidence.
Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced an effort Friday to oversee the legal mess created by September's shutdown of the Detroit Police gun laboratory due to routine errors in evidence presented at criminal trials.

A new unit will have city funding for a staff of prosecutors, an investigator, a secretary and a review panel consisting of criminal defense lawyers and/or former judges, Worthy said. The unit will cost about $800,000 a year for three years.

Revelations about the lab erupted in April when a defense attorney found discrepancies in firearms evidence that suggested police gave faulty testimony. Since then, six assistant prosecutors have worked to review five years of cases that hinged on evidence from the gun lab.

Michigan State Police have been performing the city's gun tests since fall.

Worthy said the unit will consist of two groups, one to investigate all convictions over the past five years using Detroit gun lab evidence and new evidence collected from cases in Detroit since the September closing of the lab. The second group will review and make recommendations about how to proceed. The prosecutor has promised to notify those convicted in trials that used faulty evidence.

Last month, a State Police audit of a sampling of the cases revealed a 10 percent error rate.

Also last month, the first court appeal of a conviction using information from the city's firearms laboratory was filed. Legal experts have predicted many more will follow.

Edward Hill, 40, of Detroit, was sentenced to serve up to 80 years in prison for a murder conviction that followed laboratory confirmation that it was Hill's gun that killed a customer at the Linwood Express Party Store on April 13, 2006. Prosecutors who have reviewed the evidence now agree the gun wasn't used in the slaying. Hill, who has been in prison since his conviction last year, wants a new trial.

You can reach Doug Guthrie at (313) 222-2548 or