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Innocence Maintained Honors New Exonerees, Proving Innocence, and Other Community Members

On February 16th, Marvin Zalman and Zieva Konvisser represented Proving Innocence at “Reformation,” a program sponsored by Innocence Maintained for Black History Month to honor new exonerees and those in the community helping them return to society and reform.

Innocence Maintained is an undertaking of The Aaron Salter Project, a charitable organization focused on assisting formerly incarcerated people re-acclimate into society. Innocence Maintained also focuses on helping to expedite the exoneration process for the wrongly convicted.

On August 15th 2018, after serving 15-years of a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, Aaron Salter walked out of prison a free man, thanks to the newly-formed Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). It was his 36th birthday, and his freedom was the best gift he could have ever received. As an exonerated man who spent so much time fighting for his freedom, Aaron has decided to help other people that are facing similar situations to his own.

The program was introduced and moderated by Dwight Harris, President and Co-Founder of Innocence Maintained and President and Founder of Icon 10, an organization dedicated to new and innovative approaches to administering human services to the community. Esteemed panelists and impassioned speakers included: Bishop Kenneth Tate, Body of Christ International Church, our host for the day; Dr. Sivena LaShelle Taylor, Unity Mission Church; Karlos Harris, Detroit School for Digital Technology; Keith Bennett, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit Flip the Switch Program; 36th District Judges Christopher Blount and Kenneth King; and Judge Wanda Evens, Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

The program ended with the presentation of Innocence Maintained “Awards of Sincerity” – beautifully designed glass plaques with individualized texts that Aaron personally drafted. Each plaque also included the Innocence Maintained motto: “We are not bitter. We are better!”

Marvin Zalman accepted the plaque for Proving Innocence, inscribed with: “I hereby grant you this award of sincerity for sincerely caring and helping others to end all wrongful convictions and for caring enough about the people that wrongful convictions have affected to intervene with love.”

Exonerees Aaron Salter, Darrell Siggers, Bernard Young, Justly Johnson, Kendrick Scott, Ledura Watkins, Kevin Lackey, Kaycee Smith, and Richard Phillips (in absentia) each gave heartfelt acceptance remarks and thanks as they were presented an “Award of Innocence” plaque “for showing great tenacity, strength, and courage in a time of great despair. You have overcome tremendous odds that most people can only dream of while maintaining your innocence.”

Attorney Wolfgang Mueller, who represents many wrongfully convicted individuals, especially in their claims for compensation, was also honored and gave his remarks. Among the many other family, friends, and community supporters were Aaron Salter’s lawyer Colleen Fitzharris of the Federal Defender Office and Crime Reporter George Hunter of the Detroit News.

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