The night 18-year-old Bernard Howard was hauled into Detroit police headquarters he was unequivocal: he knew nothing. Police had heard a man nicknamed Snoop—something Howard’s friend on the east side called him—might’ve been involved in a triple homicide, but Howard was clear: he didn’t know a thing. So he was released. Three days later, when officers brought him downtown again, they’d changed their tune. He was being held overnight for murder. That was July 1994. At the time Howard was a young man with a family to take care of and a prospective job at a General Motors plant in the works. But instead of working on a car production line he has been imprisoned ever since, fighting a murder conviction that he maintains was manufactured by Detroit police and an enterprising jailhouse informant. More than that, Howard and defense attorneys in similar cases say that he wasn’t alone in suffering his fate; that police and this informant led prosecutors astray and potentially landed dozens of innocent Detroit men behind bars—or secured convictions that would not have happened otherwise. “The whole case was fabricated against me from inside 1300 [Detroit police headquarters],” Howard told me in an interview at the Michigan state prison he has resided in for years. “Nothing came from the crime scene.” Detroit has a history rankled by violence, and 1994 was no exception. There were 541 homicides that year in a city with a million people—New York City’s murder rate was less than half that. So… [Read full story]
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