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Keith Robinson

Mar 2023



Written by Imran Syed, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic: Keith was convicted of shooting and killing a woman in her home in 1995 in Highland Park, a small enclave in Detroit. The woman's husband and his best friend (who also lived in the house), said they left the house just minutes before another state witness (a teenage boy who lived across the street) said he saw Keith enter, heard gunshots and then saw Keith flee. Keith was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. He was 18 at the time and had never been in any sort of legal trouble at all.

The MIC took the case and scored a couple of big breaks back in 2009-10. The teenage boy from across the street recanted, saying he didn't see Keith and only said he did because the police told him to. Beyond that, the timing became very important. The husband and his friend said they left the house just minutes before the shooting. But we had a forensic pathologist evaluate the EMS records and he said the woman had to have been dead for 2-4 hours when the paramedics examined her body. This threw a lot of suspicion on the husband, who actually had a history of significant violence against the victim. The medical evidence was then supported by a new witness, who had lived in the home directly beneath the one where the shooting occurred and who was sure that he heard the shots 2-4 hours earlier than the prosecution's theory of the case.

We saw this as a slam-dunk IAC case (counsel never investigated the medical evidence or interviewed the downstairs neighbor), but unfortunately there was no such thing in Detroit 10-12 years ago. We lost decisively in state court (including my first ever argument in the Michigan Court of Appeals) and on federal habeas. We filed two cert petitions to the US Supreme Court, one with the assistance of Jenner & Block, but they were all denied.

With the CIU backlog spanning many years, we turned to clemency. Former Gov. Rick Snyder denied clemency in 2018, but we refiled in 2022 with current Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. After a clemency hearing in December, Gov. Whitmer granted a commutation just before Christmas, at the same time as she did for our other client released this week.

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