On March 28, 2016 Temujin Kensu finally saw justice. Though still serving life imprisonment for a wrongful conviction, a jury in Federal Court unanimously found that the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) had purposely and maliciously withheld medical care to Mr. Kensu. In making its judgment the jury awarded him $320,000 in punitive and compensatory damages. This is one of the largest judgments of its kind in Michigan.
Subsequent to this jury verdict the judge will be making rulings, including a protective order for Mr. Kensu and insuring his freedom to pay for his own medical care as well as purchase necessary health supplies and aids.
The trial was held in the Eastern District of Federal Court in Detroit. Judge Victoria Roberts presided. Mr. Kensu was represented by Solomon Radner of 1-800 Law Firm, who did an excellent job of presenting Mr. Kensu’s complex case to the jury.
Over more than two decades Mr. Kensu has repeatedly requested care for health issues – including serious shoulder, back, knee, elbow, and intestinal problems – that caused him significant pain and suffering. Repeatedly and purposely proper medical care was denied. Incredibly, Mr. Kensu was even denied care and medical tests that he agreed he would pay for – denials that were in clear violation of the MDOC’s own rules.
Time and again Mr. Kensu’s medical issues were diagnosed and documented, yet were ignored. Just one example: Even though a doctor determined, through an MRI and other diagnostics, that Mr. Kensu’s shoulder required surgery, it was denied; actually cancelled. This meant continued pain and suffering. They even took away basic pain medication, such as Tylenol and ibuprofen, and refused to let him buy his own. Apparently, they wanted him to suffer.
The treatment – or better stated – lack of treatment that Mr. Kensu received by MDOC physicians was a clear violation of their Hippocratic Oath which calls for: “First, do no harm”. That oath states in part . . . "I will, according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; but I will utterly reject harm and mischief". Clearly there was much “mischief” in this case on the part of the medical professionals who badly served Mr. Kensu.
That raises the question of why was medical care denied? Because Mr. Kensu has continuously fought to prove his actual innocence and called out MDOC officials for their misconduct and abuse. He has also been an articulate and effective advocate for other prisoners who have been subject to unfair, if not illegal, actions on the part of the prison bureaucracy.
Denial of proper medical care was not the only way that the MDOC have retaliated against Mr. Kensu. He has been continually transferred from prison to prison across the state about 30 times. This is documented by the fact that a federal judge ruled in 1996 that his transfers (13 up to that date) were retaliatory.
It is gratifying that that the jury saw through the lies and deception of the Michigan Department of Corrections. MDOC medical officials portrayed themselves as the kindest and most caring people despite clear evidence that was not the case. Hopefully, this decision will bode well for others in the system and prevent the MDOC from callously ignoring prisoner health needs and, more disturbingly, using their power to withhold care as punishment for fighting for their rights.
On a sad note, no one fought harder for Mr. Kensu’s health care and rights than his wife, A’miko Kensu, who passed away from cancer about two years ago. Without her very considerable assistance it is likely that Mr. Kensu would not have received the justice that the jury awarded.
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Angelo Henderson Radio Download
In 2012 Ken Wyniemko was a special guest of Richard Bernstein, who served as co-host with the late Angelo Henderson on 1200 AM Detroit Radio. This segment of the show was dedicated to understanding wrongful convictions and what can be done to free the wrongfully convicted and prevent others from this fate.
In The Research Corner, Professor Marvin Zalman presents summaries of current academic research on wrongful conviction in a succinct and readable format. We hope that the summaries will provide you with a more sophisticated understanding of innocence issues and stimulate further interest.