Michigan man, 63, framed for murder from deliberate arson in Jackson, Michigan is finally released from prison after nearly four decades behind bars
Walter Forbes was a 25-year-old full time college student when he was convicted for a 1982 apt building fire that resulted in the death of David Hill
He walked free on November 20 from Kinross Correctional Facility in Michigan
Forbes spent 37 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of murder and arson after Hill who had shot him earlier, died in a house fire
Key witness, Annice Kennebrew, helped convict Forbes after she testified that she saw him in the company of two other men throw gasoline on the building and set it on fire
Two of the men were aqcuitted due to inconsistencies in her testimony, but Forbes was convicted – because of his prior altercation with the victim, his lawyers argued at the time
Kennebrew eventually came forward in 2017 and admitted that she made the false claims after two local men threatened to harm her and her family if she didn’t implicate Forbes in the crime
Kennebrew will not face any perjury charges for her false testimony because the statute of limitations is six years
Following his release, Forbes said that even though Kennebrew’s lies got him convicted, he is ‘grateful she did the right thing, that she did finally tell the truth’
A Michigan man who spent more than 37 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit was finally freed last month after a key witness admitted that she had lied.
Walter Forbes, 63, walked free on November 20 from the Kinross Correctional Facility where he had spent 37 years following the wrongful conviction for murder and arson.
His release comes three years after a key witness in the initial trial reportedly confessed to lying about seeing him at the crime scene.
Forbes was arrested back in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison after a man, Dennis Hall, died in an apartment fire that had been deliberately lit.
He became a suspect in the case after it emerged that Forbes has broken up a bar fight between Hall and another man, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Hall went on to shoot Forbes the day after he had broken up the fight.
Hall died in a deliberate arson soon after, when a fire was set in his apartment.
Police immediately figured Forbes to be a suspect given their recent altercations.
The straw case was sealed with the testimony of a woman named Annice Kennebrew that helped convict Forbes.
As the prosecution’s key witness, Kennebrew testified that she saw Forbes, then a 25-year-old full-time college student, and two other men throw gasoline before torching an apartment house in Jackson, Michigan, in which an occupant was killed.
Due to inconsistencies in her testimony, one of the three men accused of the crime was acquitted. A second suspect was acquitted and the other had his charges dropped after he passed a polygraph test.
Forbes was the only one convicted
His defense attorneys at the time argued the conviction was influenced by his recent altercation with the victim.
However, Kennebrew eventually came forward in 2017 and admitted that she had lied, according to court documents.
The judge ordered an evidentiary hearing that was held in February this year during which Kennebrew testified that she did not see Forbes the night of the fire.
She said she made the false claims after two local men threatened to harm her and her family if she didn’t implicate Forbes in the crime.
Kennebrew will not face any perjury charges for her false testimony because the statute of limitations is six years. Following his release, Forbes said that even though Kennebrew’s lies got him convicted, he is ‘grateful she did the right thing, that she did finally tell the truth’.
“I don’t hold any bitterness against her and I forgive her because she was a victim also. I don’t see her volunteering to just do that. She was forced to do it,” Forbes told ABC News.
In July, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson tossed out the conviction and ruled that Forbes was entitled to a new trial after his attorneys from the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan presented two pieces of new evidence supporting an appeal on grounds that Forbes had been railroaded.
During a two-day evidentiary hearing, Forbes’ lawyers introduced evidence that David Jones, the owner of the apartment house Forbes was accused of torching, was convicted in 1990 in a strikingly similar fatal arson in neighboring Livingston County.
Two men who admitted to conspiring with Jones in the second fire told police that he was involved in the fire that Forbes was wrongfully linked to.
Jones, who received a $50,000 insurance payout from the initial fire, died before the Michigan Innocence Clinic took up Forbes’ case in 2010.
He’d pled guilty to charges of conspiring with a couple to burn down their house and collect on the insurance, according to court documents.
The alleged arsonist was found dead in the charred ruins, the documents read.
The couple accused of conspiring with Jones in the Livingston County fire “told police that they were aware of David Jones’s role in the 1982 fire in Jackson,” according to the court documents.
They agreed to work with Jones because he allegedly had experience in arson and insurance fraud, the said.