DETROIT – A man who spent nearly 20 years in prison for a 1999 murder he was wrongly convicted of has filed a lawsuit seeking $100 million.
Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott spent nearly 20 years behind bars for a crime they didn't commit. Johnson has filed the lawsuit against two retired Detroit police detectives.
The two men were convicted in the Mother's Day murder of Lisa Kindred. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the charges Nov. 28, 2018.
"Barbara Simon and the lead detective, Catherine Adams, witnessed these officers in the homicide section slapping these young kids around," said Johnson's attorney, Wolf Mueller.
The lawsuit directly names Adams and Simon as defendants. Both were employed as sergeants by the Detroit Police Department at the time of the allegations, according to the lawsuit.
Lawsuit describes what allegedly happened the night of Kindred's murder
Lisa Kindred was shot in her minivan in front of her three young children on May 9, 1999 sometime shortly after midnight, according to the lawsuit. The childrens' ages ranged from 10 days to 8 years old.
The lawsuit alleges that Kindred and her husband, Will Kindred, had been to a drive-in movie in Dearborn with the children. Following the movie, Will Kindred said he needed to visit his brother-in-law on Detroit's east side to discuss selling a motorcycle.
The family arrived at Will Kindred's brother-in-law's house at midnight and the minivan was parked on the street across from the house, according to the lawsuit. Will Kindred went inside, leaving Lisa Kindred and the children inside the vehicle.
The lawsuit stated that Will Kindred had been in the house for 30 minutes when Lisa Kindred left the vehicle and knocked on the door. Will Kindred said he'd be out shortly and Lisa Kindred returned to the vehicle.
After she returned to the vehicle, an unknown individual walked up to the minivan and fired a single shot, striking Lisa Kindred in the chest. The assailant fled the scene and Lisa Kindred drove to a nearby gas station where she stepped out of the vehicle, fell to the ground and died, according to the lawsuit.
Will Kindred said he heard a noise, went to the front door and saw the minivan speeding away, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit stated that Will Kindred said he saw a man running away and he chased them. He didn't catch anybody.
Lawsuit alleges police coercion, physical abuse
The lawsuit alleges that detectives took Antonio Burnette into custody after they found him sleeping in Scott's car outside Scott's home. It goes on to say that detectives allegedly told Burnette that he would face murder charges if he didn't implicate others in the murder.
Burnette was allegedly punched in the face by a male police officer while Adams and Simon watched, according to the lawsuit. Following the alleged abuse and alleged threats, Burnette told police he saw Scott and Johnson at 2:30 a.m. May 9 and that "Snoopy (Scott) said he shot the lady while trying to get some money. He had a phone bill to pay. Stank (Johnson) and Snoopy shot the lady, too," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Adams had no evidence that Kindred had any connection to Johnson or Scott and no evidence to indicate the statement was factual. According to the lawsuit, Burnette was a 16-year-old middle school dropout, could not read and told officers he could not read. The lawsuit said officers made Burnette sign a handwritten statement, regardless.
The lawsuit also alleges that a man named Raymond Jackson was coerced by police to implicate Scott and Johnson. The lawsuit said Jackson was threatened with murder charges if he would not comply.
Lawsuit: Kindred's husband had history of domestic violence against her
The lawsuit alleges that Will Kindred had a documented history of domestic violence against Lisa Kindred. That includes an alleged 17 domestic violence police calls in the two years before the murder, in all the calls, Will Kindred was the accused, according to the lawsuit. The alleged domestic violence incidents involved Lisa Kindred and her son CJ.
Lisa Kindred's sister allegedly told Adams, shortly after the murder, that her sister had said if anything happened to her, Will Kindred was responsible, according to the lawsuit. Lisa Kindred had a divorce complaint in 1998 as well as a personal protection order, according to the lawsuit.
"The documents painted a dark picture of domestic violence perpetrated by Will Kindred on his wife, leading her to file for divorce and seek a personal protection order," the lawsuit stated.
CJ's father, Charmous Skinner, Sr., said Lisa Kindred had told him if anything happened to her Will Kindred was responsible, according to the lawsuit.
"Such a statement would have been apparent exculpatory evidence to any reasonable police officer, as it would have pointed to Will Kindred as the true suspect in a 'murder for hire' scenario," the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also said Will Kindred was cleared of any wrongdoing within three hours of the murder and that he was able to collect on his wife's life insurance within six weeks of her death.
"At a recent deposition in connection with Plaintiff's exoneration, Will Kindred, through his attorney, asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination for anything connected to his wife's death," the lawsuit stated.
Johnson, Scott convicted in 2000
On Jan. 12, 2000, Johnson was found guilty of one count of felony murder and one count of assault with intent to rob while armed and one count of felony firearm, according to the lawsuit. Johnson chose a bench trial. On Jan. 26, 2000, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On June 1, 2000, after a jury trial, Scott was convicted of one count of felony murder, one count of assault with intent to rob while armed, and one count of felony firearm. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole June 21, 2000.
An evidentiary hearing was held in the spring of 2015, according to the lawsuit. During that hearing CJ, now an adult, testified that he was sure that Johnson and Scott were not the shooters.
Burnette also testified and recanted his prior identification. He said he was threatened by police into falsely implicating Johnson and Scott, according to the lawsuit. He said he was locked up for three to four days and wasn't given food or water while he was interrogated.
The charges were dismissed and the men walked free Nov. 28, 2018.
Read the entire complaint below: