The emblem for the Detroit Police Department is seen on the sleeve of an officer outside of the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Detroit began its first court hearing after filing the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy. The city plans to seek a court order barring lawsuits against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that are related to the case. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Kenneth Nixon, a Black man from Detroit, served a 16-year prison sentence after being found guilty of a murder he didn’t commit. Now that a Wayne County judge has overturned his conviction, Nixon is suing the city’s police department for its life-altering actions.
In a lawsuit filed last week, the now 37-year-old accuses the Detroit Police Department of framing him and using the falsified testimony of an inmate seeking early release to steal nearly two decades of his life, including time spent away from his two young children. According to The Detroit News, Nixon was accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail into the home of Naomi Vaughn, which resulted in a fire that claimed the lives of two of her children. On the night in question, Nixon was at home with his then-girlfriend, a story many witnesses corroborated during his trial. According to the lawsuit, Vaughn’s boyfriend alleged that Nixon started the fire, but his story was inconsistent.
Police relied heavily on a statement from Vaughn’s 13-year-old son that was deemed inconsistent by one of the chief detectives on the case at the time, according to the Huffington Post.
Still, Nixon was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole. In his lawsuit, he alleges the police used fabricated evidence to help support claims from the teenage boy and Vaughn’s boyfriend. In addition, officers used the testimony of a “jailhouse informant,” whose sentence they promised to reduce, who claimed Nixon had confessed to the murders. It would take 16 years for Nixon to be exonerated. The lawsuit seeks to compensate him for the years he wasted behind bars and to hold police departments accountable for problematic practices that often cost Black and Brown people their futures.
“The constitutional violations that caused Plaintiff’s wrongful conviction were not isolated events,” the lawsuit states. “To the contrary, they were the result of Defendant City of Detroit’s longstanding policies and practices of pursuing wrongful convictions through reliance on profoundly flawed investigations and fabricated ‘informant’ testimony. (Detroit police have) a long history of using the testimony of jailhouse snitches without any regard to the accuracy of their statements.”
Source: Black Enterprise