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Another Innocent Man Set Free After Decades Behind Bars

Tragically, our country incarcerates many innocent people, sometimes for decades. Even when prisoners are freed after long incarceration, how do they get their life back on track?

Recently, Walter Forbes, 63, was released from prison after a Michigan Circuit Court judge overturned his conviction. Forbes had been imprisoned for 37 years on charges of murder and arson, but he was finally set free upon a key witness’s recantation of her story.

One night in 1982, Mr. Forbes, who had been a college student attending Michigan’s Jackson Community College, broke up an altercation between two parties at a bar. The next day, a man who had been involved in the fight shot Mr. Forbes four times, requiring months of rehabilitation. Subsequently, Mr. Forbes was charged and convicted of arson and murder.

On July 12, 1982, the man who had shot Mr. Forbes, Dennis Hall, died in his Jackson apartment in a fire that had seemingly been planned. Due to Mr. Forbes having just been involved in a scuffle with Hall, police quickly suspected he was responsible for the crime. Mr. Forbes was thereafter sentenced to life in prison in May of 1983.

The key witness at Mr. Forbes’s trial, Annice Kennebrew, admitted in 2017 to having fabricated her original statement against Mr. Forbes. Instead of Mr. Forbes having been one of three responsible for the arson that took place that night, it was believed that the fire had actually been planned by the apartment building owner in an insurance fraud scheme attempt. Once Kennebrew recanted her testimony against Mr. Forbes, the conviction was overturned.

Based on Michigan’s law of compensating wrongfully convicted inmates $50,000 per year of incarceration, Mr. Forbes is eligible to collect nearly $2 million in compensation from the State.

Despite Mr. Forbes’s eventual freedom, he commented on the flaws in our justice system; indeed, his case demonstrates that our legal system is not always fair. Mr. Forbes’s case is just one example of the many injustices that our legal system still imposes upon innocent individuals.

It is important to remain attentive to cases such as this, so that more people can seek the justice they truly deserve. Contact the Innocence Project for information about how you can help.

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