Temujin Kensu

(formerly known as Frederick Freeman)

You may write Temujin atTemujin Kensu #189355
Gus Harrison Correctional Facility
2727 E. Beecher Street
Adrian, MI 49221

 
Temujin Kensu (known as Frederick Freeman prior to his conversion to Buddhism) was wrongfully convicted of the shotgun killing of Scott Macklem in a college parking lot in Port Huron, Michigan on November 5, 1986. He has now served more than 28 years behind bars for a crime the evidence shows he did not commit.

Temujin Kensu is actually – not technically – innocent of the crime. As confirmed by at least 10 credible alibi witnesses, at the time of the murder he was in the Upper Peninsula in Rock, Michigan, 20 miles north of Escanaba and about 450 miles from the crime scene in Port Huron. In addition, there was absolutely no evidence at the crime scene – documentary, forensic, or physical – that connected Teminjun to the crime. No murder weapon was produced. No gunshot residue was found on his clothing. An ammunition box found at the scene contained a fingerprint not belonging to him. Police conducted a several-hour search of his house, trailer, and property and found nothing incriminating. Moreover, Temujin and his primary alibi witness have both passed polygraphs administered by respected former Michigan State Police polygraphers.

Temujin Kensu was wrongly convicted of murder due to a shocking failure of our criminal justice system. He was the victim of a combination of factors, including unprofessional and faulty police work, admitted perjury by a jailhouse snitch, an overly aggressive prosecutor, erroneous identification by witnesses caused by suggestive police procedures, and a court-appointed defense attorney who was cocaine-addicted, incompetent, and had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the lead detective in the case. Temujin literally drowned in a “perfect storm” of failures of our criminal justice system.

For more information, click the Read more link. Updates are added in succession, so the most up-to-date information can be found by scrolling to the end of the article.

For more information on this case:

 

Why He is Actually Innocent

What Others Say About the Kensu Case

Reasonable doubt: Part II (Metro Times Detroit)

 

 

The Flint News - May 24, 2009

 
 

 

Dec 11, 2008

A'miko Kensu states that "According to Granholm's office we can expect a decision on the Clemency sometime in January or the first of February." She also gives a correction to the article, that though the parole board's earlier decision was made after receiving a psychological report on Temujin, no statements were made in the report that he was denied clemency because of it. The board stated that it is not their job to second guess the decision of juries.

Feb 19, 2009

Granholm's Office had said to expect a decision on Temujin's clemency in January or by the first of February. So far, there is no news.

The effort has been aided by Ross Parker, former Chief Assistant Attorney at the Department of Justice in Easter Michigan, at the request of Proving Innocence. Ross has sent three letters to the Governor and has spoken to the attorney assigned to the request for clemency. He is also considering strategy for the habeas aspect. He is optimistic that one of their efforts will eventually bear fruit.

US Senator Carl Levin and US Representative Bart Stupak have also indicated their support.

April 8, 2009 - Gov. Granholm has Denied Temujin Kensu's Appeal for Clemency

A close look at Granholm's record shows, with one exception, that she maintains her philosophy of not "second guessing juries". In other words, she will grant clemency when there is a drastic change in the convicted person's status, such as a terminal medical prognosis. A clemency appeal based on problems with the original court case appears to be a very long shot.

For information about Temujin's specific case, see this article

February 2010 Update

On February 10th, Judge Hood gave an order today making it official that Ross Parker is Temujin's advisory counsel. In the order she references Proving Innocence and Temujin's innocence. You can read the order here.

After Bill Proctor had a meeting with Granholm's legal advisors, along with Ross Parker, Dave Moran of the Michigan Innocence Clinic and Donna McKneelen of the Cooley Michigan Innocence Project, the Michigan Innocence Project decided to do a thorough review of the case. We are welcoming their expertise and looking forward to their findings.

 

October 14, 2010 Update

Kensu's Murder Conviction Overturned!!!

October 14, 2010. After almost 25 years of incarceration and maintaining his innocence, United States District Judge Denise Page Hood issued a 52 page "Opinion & Order Conditionally Granting the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus" to Temujin Kensu. It concludes:

It is hereby ordered that petitioner's application for writ of habeas corpus is conditionally granted, unless the state takes action to afford petitioner a new trial within ninety (90) days of the date of this opinion. If no appeal is taken, otherwise, within ninety (90) days after any appellate avenues are exhausted and a mandate issued, petitioner may apply for a writ ordering respondent to release him from custody forthwith.

The success rate of habeas petitions is worth noting. 98% of all petitions are rejected on procedural grounds or lack of merit. 2% are either remanded back to the State courts for further proceedings "or far less frequently, resolved favorably to the prisoner on the merits outright"1. With these odds that a petition of this nature would succeed, it only underscores how severe a miscarriage of justice this was and how it took an authority outside of the state system to objectively look at this case and see it for the travesty of justice that it was.

While the petition brought up many points in which Judge Hood saw no merit, in these she did:             Judge Denise Hood

1. Ineffective Assistance of Counseljudgehood

a. Obstruction of Petitioner’s Right to Testify in his own Defense

b. Failure to Call Michelle Woodworth (his main alibi witness)

2. Prosecutorial Misconduct

a. Jailhouse Informant’s Concealment of Promises (Philip Joplin, who made up a Kensu confession in exchange for leniency)

3. Ineffective Assistance of Appellate Counsel

It is with incredible joy and excitement that we share this news with you. However, the wheels of justice can turn very slowly. Sadly, this does not mean that he will immediately be set free. The Michigan Attorney General's office has 90 days to appeal and Temujin could face retrial.  A'Miko, Temujin's wife said she hoped that Granholm would use Hood's ruling to justify Temujin's release regardless of the attorney general's appeal.

The 52 page ruling can be downloaded and read in it's entirety. {quickdown:20}

Some articles on this fantastic news!

Associated Press The Metro Times The FreePress

 

December

In one of her final decisions, Gov. Granholm denies Kensu's request for commutation

Acting in accord with the recommendation of Michigan's Parole and Commutation Board, Gov. Granholm denied large_Granholm-453Temujin Kensu's request for commutation. Most requests for commutation of sentence have to do with reasons to shorten a guilty person's sentence, such as ill health after serving years in prison. Kensu requested clemency based on innocence. Consequently, the 26 hour hearing over two days was an effort to retry him with none of the rules of law that keep a court process orderly. At the original trial, the well executed plan of the prosecution was based on character assassination + possible/improbable theory = guilty, with no regard to the standard "evidence beyond a reasonable doubt". At the Parole and Commutation Board, that standard is not required.

Temujin's Habeas Still his best Shot

Tjudgehoodhe granting of Temujin's Writ of Habeas Corpus in which Judge Hood overturned Temujin's 24 year old verdict remains his best ticket home. After that decision, the request for clemency from the Governor was seen as a way of getting Temujin out of prison earlier and aborting a drawn out process at tax payer's expense. The State of Michigan, of course, is appealing the decision, which is what could take years. It was the anticipated response.  It is unusual for the prosecutor's office to acquiesce to such a decision and let the person go. However, the reality is they know they have no case. It has been picked apart over these two decades and no reasonable person would expect their "evidence" to stand up under scrutiny a second time around. No self-respecting judge would allow the charachter assassination that previously took place so prominently, turning the trial into a circus, to be repeated. The prosecutor's office will not admit they made a mistake. They have no case. Their only hope is that the appeal will strike down Judge Hood's decision, something we are told does not happen very often.

The complete Kensu file.

 

 

Temujin Kensu Update - March 3, 2012

Dave and Bonnie Sanders, PI Board members, attended Temujin Kensu’s habeas hearing before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Friday, March 3rd.  Hearing the case were Judges Caldwell, Martin, and McTeague. McTeague had two other cases before him involving Kensu when he was District Judge in Michigan. Michigan Attorney General's assistant prosecutor B. Eric Restuccia appeared for the state while David Moran, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic (MIC) along with J.P. Nogues, one of his students, represented Temujin.
 
This hearing was an appeal of the decision of United States District Judge Denise Page Hood granting the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. About 1% of all habeas corpus requests are granted each year, which in itself says boat loads about the weakness of the original trial. The state essentially argued that there was no new evidence of any substance that would call for an evidentiary hearing.  It argued that if the court ruled that a new hearing was justified it would be establishing a new precedent and setting a very low threshold for evidence justifying an evidentiary hearing.  He repeatedly made that point, emphasizing that such a ruling would open the "floodgates" for other appeals.
 
David Moran did an excellent job of presenting Kensu's side and fending off repeated questions/statements of Judge McTeague.  For example, McTeague tried to say that the airplane theory had no effect on whether the jurors believed in TK's many alibi witnesses.  Moran did not let him get away with that and pointed out that there was absolutely no record of such a flight. 
 
Moran also did well in demonstrating that Temujin’s original lawyer, Dean, was ineffective counsel in not calling Woodward to testify.  He noted that she was not even on the list of alibi witnesses, even though Dean said she was on the list.  He also highlighted the highly suggestive photo array used before the jury that was not found until years later.
 
MIC student John Pierre Nogues  did a very good job of covering Joplin's recantation and countered McTeague's questions and comments.  He pointed out the written statements from other county and state officials documenting that Joplin received a deal for his testimony.
 
Judge McTeague tried to make a big deal out of jailhouse snitch, Joplin, not really dying when he made his recantation.  He also said that Joplin looked like he would say anything. (And yet they were quite willing to take his testimony to convict an innocent man.)
 
In sum, it's impossible to tell how the court will rule. With only 1% of habeas corpus petitions granted, it is rare to overturn one, but McTeague clearly looks opposed.
 
 
Update - May 2012 - Kensu's Habeas Overturned
 

It is with heavy hearts that PI inform you that the writ of habeas corpus, which granted Temujin Kensu relief from his 25 year old guilty verdict, was overturned by US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (For those desiring to read the Opinion, you may download it at the end of this article.)

The Appeals Court disagreed with the lower court ruling based on four key factors:

First, one reason for granting a new trial was that Temujin was denied a constitutionally guaranteed defense. Evidence was found that Temujin's defense lawyer was using crack cocaine during the trial which impeded his judgment. But this did not move the justices. In looking over the trial, the justices felt that the decisions made by counsel were strategic and saw nothing that any other lawyer might not have also chosen to do.

Second, there was the "new evidence" of Michelle Wentworth's testimony that she was with Temujin in Escanaba over 300 miles away at the time of the murder, but was never called to testify. Temujin's lawyer had known about her willingness to testify and made a strategic choice not to call her as a witness, making it inadmissible as "new evidence".

Third, Temujin's own affidavit, that he was prevented by counsel to testify on his own behalf, is considered self-serving with no corroborating evidence in court record.

The fourth opinion of the court is the most distrurbing. A jailhouse snitch, by the name of Joplin, was the best "evidence" the prosecution could come up with. Years afterwards, Joplin recanted and said that he had been granted preferential treatment by the prosecutor's office if he would lie on the stand that Temujin had "confessed" to him about the murder. The Appeals Court's decision to not accept this recantation as admissible was based on the lack of a sworn affidavit by Joplin, despite the existence of a video interview by Bill Proctor in which he recounts the entire lurid story.

This is another painful example of the courts favoring process over substance. They have a video confession of Joplin's admission of perjury on the stand; perjury which was promoted by the prosecutor's office. Yet, because they do not have a written statement signed by Joplin, they are willing to let this man spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Our hearts go out to Temujin, his wife A'miko, and to all those who have labored so hard for so many years to see justice in this case. May they have the strength to live with this injustice that no American citizen should have to face.

 

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