Detroit man freed after 42 years in prison for robbery, murder he didn't commit

Ledura Watkins is longest serving wrongly convicted person in Michigan

DETROIT – A Detroit man was released from prison Thursday after spending 42 years behind bars for a robbery and murder he didn't commit, according to Western Michigan's WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Program.

Ledura Watkins was found guilty of murdering a Detroit woman in 1975 and was sentenced to life without parole on April 15, 1976.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project filed a motion for a new trial on Jan. 19, and the prosecutor's office agreed that hair comparison evidence used against Watkins doesn't meet today's legal standards.

Detroit lab analysts trained by the FBI tied Watkins to the crime scene based on a single hair, the WMU-Cooley program found. In 2013, the FBI disavowed testimony by the FBI-trained analysts, saying they often overstated their conclusions.

"Hair comparison is not based on science," said Marla Mitchell-Cichon, director of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project. "It is simply a lab analyst’s subjective opinion and has no place in our criminal justice system. This is why a statewide review of hair comparison cases is critical."

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office agreed that the new scientific standards are "newly discovered" evidence.

You can see a video of Watkins being released below.

The first breath and first steps of freedom after 42 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. My story on Local 4 News @5. @local4news

— Rod Meloni (@RodMeloni) June 15, 2017

Mitchell-Cichon said Watkins never stopped fighting for his freedom during his prison time.

Watkins' family said they got their wish that he will attend the annual family reunion in August.

Watkins will be the longest serving wrongly convicted person in Michigan, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.