‘I knew he was innocent’: Family reunites with Detroit man exonerated after 15 years in prison

Terance Calhoun wrongfully convicted in 2006

A Detroit man in prison for 15 years for kidnapping and sexual assault was cleared of the crimes Wednesday after authorities discovered many mistakes, including a failure to disclose DNA results proving his innocence.

WHITMORE LAKE, Mich. – Last Friday, the family of Terance Calhoun was shocked, confused and saddened when they learned the hearing to exonerate him had been delayed.

Calhoun was wrongfully convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and felony firearms possession from two criminal sexual conduct cases in Detroit in October of 2006.

WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project said both victims gave statements and descriptions to police that did not match Calhoun. Police claimed their composite sketches matched Calhoun.

DNA testing was facilitated by the State Appellate Defender’s office. Calhoun has served 15 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. DNA evidence as indicated the crimes were committed by another man and that man is facing charges.

On April 22, the hearing to formally exonerate Calhoun was upended by a Detroit police officer who showed up and asked the judge to look at evidence before dismissing the case.

The judge, Kelly Ramsey, said she knows the officer. They worked on the Innocence Lost Task Force together for years. She said the officer tried giving her a binder before being told to leave.

The case was back in court on Wednesday (April 27). His family finally got their chance to celebrate the end of Calhoun’s 15 years behind bars.

Calhoun’s mother came up from Tennessee with several other family members to welcome her son with a warm embrace and said, “It finally happened, I knew he was innocent from the start.”

Terance Calhoun reunited with family (State Appellate Defender Office)

Marvin Cotton Jr, who was exonerated in October 2020 and is part of Organization of Exonerees was also waiting outside the prison to show his support. Cotton says the delay makes Calhoun’s release even more emotional.

“The very thing that delayed this process is the same thing that cause wrongful convictions to begin with,” Cotton said. “Although it may be just one week, to us, one week to an innocent person but (for someone who is wrongfully convicted) it is an eternity, it’s a lifetime.”

The delay and the reason behind it was addressed multiples times in court Wednesday.

Michael Mittlestat, of the state’s appellate defender office sat by Calhoun throughout the hearing.

“It was unfortunate what went on last week. As I said in court, the best way to describe it as it was an act of vigilantism, more than so than something you’d expect from a public servant,” Mittlestat said.

Read: Exoneration hearing to be held Wednesday for Terance Calhoun

More about the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project

In 2018, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project received a $451,238 Bloodsworth grant from the Department of Justice. The grant is to screen claims of innocence and conduct DNA testing of evidence.

“WMU-Cooley’s Innocence Project has 20 years of experience in post-conviction DNA testing,” stated Project Director Tracey Brame. “Our knowledge of DNA testing, and the legal arguments that accompany DNA exclusions and undermine wrongful convictions, allows us to be a resource to innocent prisoners and their lawyers. We are honored to assist in freeing Mr. Calhoun.”

The project was established in 2001 and focuses on obtaining post-conviction DNA testing. It also provides legal assistance to persons who are imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is the only post-conviction DNA innocence organization in Michigan. The office has screened more than 5,800 cases and is responsible for the exoneration of seven men: Kenneth Wyniemko (2003), Nathaniel Hatchett (2008), Gilbert Poole (2021), George Dejesus (2022) and Wayne County residents Donya Davis (2014), LeDura Watkins (2017), and Kenneth Nixon (2021) .

Read: Release of exonerated man delayed after Detroit cop claims to have new evidence in court


About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.