Judge soon to de­cide bond in 1999 slay­ing

Two Detroi­ters await new trial in Mother’s Day killing

The Detroit News - - Metro - BY GE­ORGE HUNTER The Detroit News

A Wayne County Cir­cuit Court judge said Fri­day he will de­cide next week whether to grant bond to two Detroit men who in­sist they’re not re­spon­si­ble for the Mother’s Day 1999 fa­tal shoot­ing of a woman who was gunned down within feet of her three chil­dren.

The Michi­gan Supreme Court in July or­dered new tri­als for Ken­drick Scott, 39, and Justly John­son, 43. Both men for years have claimed they weren’t in­volved in the fa­tal shoot­ing of Lisa Kin­dred, 35, on the city’s east side.

Dur­ing Fri­day’s bond hear­ing be­fore Judge Don­ald Knapp, as­sis­tant Wayne County pros­e­cu­tor Athina Siringas ar­gued the two men should be treated like any other first-de­gree mur­der de­fen­dants and de­nied a per­sonal re­cog­ni­zance bond.

Im­ran Syed, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Michi­gan In­no­cence Clinic, which is rep­re­sent­ing the two men, said the state Supreme Court’s find­ings — that their con­vic­tions were based on “shaky ground” — should be con­sid­ered.

The judge said he will rule Sept. 21 af­ter weigh­ing writ­ten ar­gu­ments from pros­e­cu­tors and de­fense at­tor­neys.

Kin­dred of Ro­seville was killed May 9, 1999, while sit­ting inside her mini­van in the 4400 block of Bewick on Detroit’s east side. Some­one ap­proached the van about 12:55 a.m. and shot Kin­dred, 35, in the ab­domen.

Kin­dred’s three chil­dren — two in­fants and Char­mous Skinner Jr., then 8 years old, were in the ve­hi­cle — but in­ves­ti­ga­tors never in­ter­viewed the boy.

Lawyers at the In­no­cence Clinic filed a mo­tion for a new trial based in part on tes­ti­mony from Kin­dred’s son that Scott and John­son did not fit the de­scrip­tion of the shooter.

Court doc­u­ments also show An­to­nio Bur­nette and Ray­mond Jack­son orig­i­nally told po­lice Scott and John­son had killed Kin­dred, but they later re­canted their state­ments, say­ing they felt pres­sured to give false ac­counts.

In their July rul­ing, the state jus­tices ruled that “newly dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence of Skinner’s tes­ti­mony in con­junc­tion with the other ev­i­dence that would be pre­sented on re­trial would make a dif­fer­ent re­sult prob­a­ble and there­fore en­ti­tled both de­fen­dants to new tri­als.”

Jus­tice Richard Bern­stein wrote the ma­jor­ity opin­ion. He was joined by Chief Jus­tice Stephen Mark­man and Jus­tices David Vi­viano and El­iz­a­beth Cle­ment.

Jus­tice Brid­get McCor­mack re­cused her­self be­cause of her prior in­volve­ment as coun­sel for a party in the case. Jus­tice Kur­tis Wilder also ab­stained be­cause he was on the Michi­gan Court of Ap­peals panel that de­cided John­son and Scott’s mo­tions for peremp­tory re­ver­sal.

Jus­tice Brian Zahra was the lone dis­senter. He wrote the de­fen­dants’ newly dis­cov­ered ev­i­dence “is not cred­i­ble.”

“Even as­sum­ing the ev­i­dence was cred­i­ble, I dis­agree with the ma­jor­ity that this ev­i­dence would have made a dif­fer­ence on re­trial, par­tic­u­larly in re­gard to Scott’s jury trial in which the ev­i­dence, al­beit cir­cum­stan­tial, was just short of over­whelm­ing.”

Dur­ing Fri­day’s hear­ing, as­sis­tant pros­e­cu­tor Siringas said the two de­fen­dants are “in the same po­si­tion as they would be if they’d been charged with a homi­cide and been bound over for trial.

“A per­sonal bond on a mur­der charge, where these de­fen­dants had pre­vi­ously been con­victed on mur­der one, is in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” she said.

“At the pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion, the mag­is­trate had an op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to the de­fen­dants and bound them over,” Siringas said. “Then there was a bench trial for one of the de­fen­dants, and a jury trial for the other. The jury con­cluded the de­fen­dants were guilty; and (Wayne Cir­cuit) Judge Pren­tis Ed­wards made the same de­ci­sion.”

Siringas added that the wit­nesses were ac­cused dur­ing their orig­i­nal trial of try­ing to in­tim­i­date wit­nesses in the court­room.

“The wit­nesses had to be put into pro­tec­tive cus­tody,” she said. “I think if (John­son and Ken­drick) are re­leased, the wit­nesses would be in danger.”

Syed coun­tered that the state Supreme Court de­ci­sion negates the ear­lier rul­ings.

“The ar­gu­ment Ms. Siringas made is the ar­gu­ment that was made be­fore the Michi­gan Supreme Court — and that ar­gu­ment lost,” he said. “The ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court was very strong lan­guage that said this con­vic­tion is based on shaky ground.”

Syed added the al­le­ga­tion that the de­fen­dants had tried to threaten wit­nesses had no merit.

“The wit­nesses them­selves said they were not threat­ened, and the Supreme Court found that was not cred­i­ble,” he said.

Fol­low­ing Fri­day’s hear­ing, the de­fen­dants’ moth­ers ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment the judge didn’t grant bond — but ex­pressed hope he’d rule in their fa­vor next week.

“We’ve been wait­ing all this time; I guess we can wait an­other week,” Tisah John­son said. “It’s just a mess.”

Ernes­tine Ken­drick her head.

“They just don’t want to them boys out,” she said.

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Ge­orge Hunter / The Detroit News

Justly John­son, left, and Ken­drick Scott for years have claimed they didn’t shoot Lisa Kin­dred.

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