Tuesday, November 3, 2009

U-M innocence project helps win convicted murderer a new trial

Detroit -- A 36-year-old man, jailed for the past eight years for a murder he says he did not commit, has been granted a new trial by a Wayne Circuit Court judge this morning and could be home with his family as early as tonight.

Dwayne Provience has been in prison since 2001, despite his consistent claims of innocence. Judge Timothy Kenny ordered a new trial, citing the prosecution's use of a less-than-credible witness.

The Innocence Project at the University of Michigan -- a litigation group that seeks to overturn incorrect convictions -- took up the case after being contacted by Provience. For his family, Tuesday's court decision was a case of the holidays coming early.

"It's like all of the holidays are happening at once," said Provience's mother, Vonzella Battle of Detroit, while crying and embracing family members outside Kenny's courtroom. "It's already Christmas."

In 2000, Rene Hunter was shot to death in Detroit, and alleged witness Larry Wiley named Provience as the shooter. Provience went to prison a year later.

"We knew from the beginning he was innocent," Battle said of her son. "We knew from the beginning it was not him. It couldn't be him."

Battle said the family will hold a welcome home party for her son once he is released. Kenny set a bond of $5,000 for Provience, and family members indicated they expected to post the 10 percent necessary to free him pending a new trial. If released, Provience will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device and live at his mother's home.

Wearing green inmate garb, a white thermal shirt and sandals, Provience stayed quiet during the proceedings, only telling the judge, "Yes, sir," when asked if he would attend future court proceedings if given bond.

A docket conference is scheduled for Nov. 24, when the prosecution and defense will meet to discuss the next step in the case. Students involved with the Innocence Project said they believed prosecutors will drop the case eventually.

In a statement issued before today's hearing, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said a new trial is merited.

"This is a prime example of why these cases require a full investigation," she said in the statement. "We agree with the defense that this evidence does entitle the defendant to a new trial. For that reason, we will not issue any further statement regarding specific facts of the case."

Provience's 15-year-old son, Dwayne and 14-year-old daughter, Alexis, attended today's hearing. Both said they could not wait until their father returns home

"I'd like to talk to him about everything," Provience's son said.

Toya Robinson, the mother of Provience's children and his ex-girlfriend, said his release will have a dramatic impact on their children

"It's more important than any words can describe," she said. "They were really close to their dad. He took them to school every day. We have been praying every day."

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