GIST: "For decades investigators and forensic scientists have worked together to solve crimes. While forensic science has helped correctly identify perpetrators of crimes, but if not properly overseen, regulated and updated according to the latest standards, it can also implicate an innocent person. The misapplication of forensic science is one of the leading contributing factors to wrongful convictions in the state of Michigan and across the nation. Misapplication, which can include the misuse of forensic techniques or improper testimony by forensic analysts, has been responsible for 44% of the nation’s 365 DNA-based exonerations. Darrell Siggers is one of the 20 people in Michigan wrongly convicted based on false or misleading forensic evidence. Siggers will celebrate one year as a free man this summer after spending 34 years in prison for a 1984 murder in Wayne County that he did not commit. Prosecutors vacated Siggers' conviction after two former ballistics experts from the Michigan State Police concluded the firearms evidence at his trial was “erroneous,” “highly improbable” and “unbelievable.” Siggers’ case offers a glimpse at the monumental impact faulty or misapplied forensic science can have on the life of an innocent person. The high-profile shutdown of the Detroit Crime Lab in 2008 also demonstrates how a lack of oversight and resources can have disastrous consequences for communities. After an audit uncovered an astonishing backlog of 11,000 untested rape kits, Michigan taxpayers not only shelled out more than $13 million for private laboratories to analyze the kits but also grappled with the fact that this analysis revealed 817 previously undetected perpetrators, many of whom were found to be serial rapists. Subsequent analyses also found the firearms forensic testing capabilities at the lab were woefully out of compliance with even the most minimum standards. In order to sharpen these crime-fighting tools, identify the guilty and protect the innocent, the National Institute of Justice promotes state-based forensic science commissions (“FSCs”), made up of expert scientists and stakeholders in the justice system. Changed standards and practices in the areas of arson, composite bullet lead analysis, bite mark evidence and hair microscopy, to name a few, have garnered national attention, highlighting the need for a dedicated commission. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already have forensic science advisory bodies that provide resources and support to labs and law enforcement agencies in the application of forensic evidence. That’s why we’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that would create our own state-based Forensic Science Commission to study forensic disciplines, recommend best practices, help labs share their innovations across the state, and investigate issues that may arise within crime labs. We recognize that science is constantly evolving and advances in technology sometimes occur rapidly. A state-based FSC could ensure that our state is aware of these technological advances and make certain that we are using the most reliable forensic testing methods available.    In addition, it would help our state maintain fiscal responsibility. Aside from the shouldering the cost of wrongfully incarcerating innocent people, Michigan taxpayers have paid over $8 million in settlements for cases involving flawed forensics and over $30 million for all civil lawsuits for wrongful convictions across the state. Michigan has an opportunity to be a national model that takes the best of what works and put it into practice. A forensic science commission here would put in place a framework to prevent wrongful convictions in the state, deepen trust in the criminal justice process and strengthen public safety.

The entire commentary can be read at the link below:


Read National Registry of Exonerations entry  by Maurice Possley at the link below:

 "Shortly before midnight on February 16, 1984, 25-year-old James Montgomery was gunned down as he walked with two friends on Phillips Street on the east side of Detroit, Michigan.

Montgomery’s friends—Derrick Lawson and Ranard Jackson—told police they recognized the gunman as 20-year-old Darrell Siggers, whom they had seen earlier in the evening at a gathering at the home of Christine Hooks, the mother of Siggers’s two children. Montgomery, Lawson, and Jackson came to the gathering, but were kicked out because they were highly intoxicated.

On February 22, 1984, Siggers was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

In July 1984, Siggers went to trial in Recorder’s Court in Detroit. Lawson and Jackson identified him as the gunman—although both admitted they were as much as 100 feet away from the gunman, the lighting was poor, and they had been drinking and taking drugs.

Detroit Police Sgt. Claude Houseworth, a ballistics analyst, testified that seven shell casings found at the scene had been fired from the same weapon—likely a rifle. He said that a bullet found at the scene, as well as shell casings and a bullet that had been recovered from wood molding in an apartment across the hall from Siggers’s apartment, came from the same weapon. The murder weapon was never recovered.

On July 19, 1984, the jury convicted Siggers and he was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1987, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and the Michigan Supreme Court denied him leave to appeal in June 1988.

In 1989, Siggers filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but that was denied. In 1996, Siggers filed another federal petition for habeas corpus, but that was denied as well. In 1998, Siggers made an additional federal filing, which was denied in 1999.

In March 2004, Siggers filed a motion for a new trial in Wayne County Circuit Court alleging that newly discovered evidence established his innocence.

At an evidentiary hearing, Darryl Dulin testified that he was on the street on the night of the murder and that he saw a man named Toby Red shoot Montgomery. In addition, Richard Braxton testified that he later heard Toby Red admit that he shot Montgomery.

Siggers also presented a sworn affidavit from Bruce Spearman saying that Ranard Jackson, his cousin and one of the witnesses at Siggers’s trial, admitted that he falsely identified Siggers after police threatened to arrest him.

Another witness, Jack Fuqua, testified that Toby Red came to his house carrying a rifle and admitted that he just shot someone. Fuqua said he told police about the conversation, but he never told anyone else about it after police threatened to arrest him.

William Arnold testified that he heard Toby Red come to Fuqua’s door on the night of the murder and admit to having shot someone. Arnold said he did not volunteer this evidence at the time of the trial because police threatened to have public benefits withheld from his sister and her children.

The judge ruled that the witnesses were not credible and denied the motion for a new trial. The denial was upheld on appeal.

In 2008, the Detroit police crime lab was shut down after an audit performed by the Michigan State Police exposed widespread errors in ballistics testing.

Siggers subsequently contacted Claudia Whitman, founder of the National Capital Crime Assistance Network, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the incarcerated, including investigating cases of wrongful conviction. Whitman connected Siggers to David Townshend, a ballistics expert who had concluded that Detroit police ballistics testimony in the prosecution of Desmond Ricks had been false. Ricks was exonerated of murder in 2017.

Townshend reviewed the testimony from Siggers’s trial. In 2015, he issued a report severely criticizing Sgt. Houseworth’s testimony linking the shell casings to bullets found at the scene and at the apartment across the hall from Siggers’s apartment. Townshend said Houseworth’s testimony was “unbelievable.” He said, “It is highly unlikely that a positive identification of the three bullets…would have been possible” even if the police had recovered the actual weapon used in the shooting.

Townshend’s report noted that Houseworth testified about comparing bullets that weren’t even logged in the original reports of evidence recovered from the scene of the shooting and the apartment across the hall from where Siggers lived.

Ultimately, Siggers wrote to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office requesting that the conviction integrity unit review his case. Whitman also arranged for David Balash, a retired Michigan State Police firearms examiner to review the ballistics evidence. Balash concluded Houseworth’s testimony was “both confusing and at times totally inaccurate.”

The original evidence in the case was destroyed years earlier and so could not be retested or re-examined.

On July 19, 2018, Siggers’s lawyer and the prosecution presented a joint motion to vacate Siggers’s conviction. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Shannon Walker granted the motion. On August 30, 2018, Siggers was released after spending more than 34 years in custody.

On October 19, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the charges. In August 2019, Siggers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages for his wrongful conviction."