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Innocent Man Denied Clemency

Temujin Kensu (aka., Fredrick Freeman), whose wrongful conviction is known nationally as “Michigan’s Shame”, has been denied clemency by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Kensu has served almost three and a half decades in prison for murder even though the evidence shows it was physically impossible for him to have committed the crime. No reasons have been provided explaining the Governor’s decision other than she was following the recommendation of the Michigan Parole Board.

The Michigan Innocence Clinic of the University of Michigan’s law school submitted the clemency application to the Governor on behalf of Kensu. That petition was based upon humanitarian grounds given Kensu’s serious health issues as well as his actual innocence.

“The Governor’s decision confounds us and it’s clear she has been badly misled”, said David Sanders with Proving Innocence. “There is no credible evidence connecting Temujin to the murder whatsoever versus an abundance that he was almost 500 miles away when it occurred.”

Proving Innocence believes that the decision not to grant clemency reveals once again that Michigan has a terribly flawed system for handling cases of actual innocence. State law requires that the Governor consider the recommendation

of Michigan’s Parole Board, yet that body is designed and structured for granting paroles of convicted felons and has no understanding of an application for clemency based on actual innocence. In its deliberations, the board considers such issues as whether the prisoner has expressed remorse for the crime, has reformed, and has a place to live and work – factors important to paroling a felon but completely irrelevant to someone who should not be in prison in the first place.

The Parole Board admits that it doesn’t examine or investigate innocence because that would put it in the position of retrying cases that a court should decide.

“If that’s the Board’s position, then why is it involved in the process when it’s not seriously looking at the central issue in a clemency application – actual innocence!” stated Bill Branham of Proving Innocence.

Supporters of Kensu are frustrated by the fact that the Parole Board refuses to offer any explanation for its recommendation to the Governor. PI has submitted Freedom Of Information Act requests to understand what the Parole Board's reasons were, which by law they have to state, but to no avail.

Sanders said, “How do you defend an innocent man or woman when you do not know the arguments or supposed facts that the Parole Board presented to the Governor? We know from past experience that the files of the Michigan Department of Corrections are often filled with mistakes, errors, and erroneous statements.” Most recently, the Parole Board form presented to the Governor stated falsely that Kensu had 17 Class I Misconduct tickets, which is completely untrue.”

Despite this setback, supporters of Kensu are encouraged that Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has recognized the state’s broken system for handling cases of actual innocence and created the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU). The CIU is charged with undertaking extensive investigations of actual innocence and is currently considering an application from Kensu, with that review expected to be completed in 2021.

“This is where our confidence lies, said Sanders. “We fully trust that the CIU’s independent review will reveal without a doubt that a great injustice was done to Temujin. Our hope is that that the Attorney General will present the facts from this comprehensive investigation to the Governor and she will do the right thing and finally free a man so terribly wronged.”

Sanders also explained that the Attorney General does not have the authority to free Kensu or any prisoner she may find innocent. Only clemency from a Governor or action by a court can do that. A request by the Attorney General to a court could mean years of litigation and years more in prison for Kensu if it is contested by St. Clair County, a likely prospect.


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