Welcome to Open Mike, the podcast where Michigan’s leading attorney Mike Morse lays down the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when it comes to your rights, current events, and so much more. Hear exclusive interviews with superstar authors, leaders, activists, experts, and entrepreneurs telling it like it is. You’ll learn what insurance companies, the government, and other lawyers don’t want you to know — so you can go for the win in law, and in life!
119-A Firebombing & Wrongful Conviction Revealed Dark Realities of Detroit's Criminal Justice System
In 2005, 18-year-old Kenneth Nixon and his girlfriend were arrested and charged with murder, arson, and four counts of attempted murder in conjunction with a tragic Detroit firebombing that killed two children. While Kenneth’s girlfriend was acquitted by a jury, he was sentenced to two life sentences.
A collaborative review by the Medill Justice Project, Cooley Law Innocence Project, and Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit would ultimately determine Kenneth didn’t receive a fair trial, citing inconsistent eyewitness testimony, opportunistic jailhouse informant testimony, and poor arson investigation. On February 18th, 2021, Nixon was released from prison, 16 years after his conviction.
In this stunning installment of Open Mike, Kenneth reflects on the systemic biases that contributed to his wrongful conviction and provides updates about his post-release life — including inspiring advocacy work with the National Organization of Exonerees.
[00:01] Welcome to Open Mike!
[00:17] Kenneth Nixon’s background and bio.
[01:43] Welcome to the show, Ken! You’ve been out of prison, almost eight months to the day! What was it like walking out of prison, getting your freedom back after sixteen years?
[02:45] So much has changed over sixteen years… what milestones did you miss the most when you were incarcerated?
[03:28] How many children did you have when you were convicted? Did you get to see them when you were in prison?
[04:44] In 2005 there’s a firebombing on Charleston Street in Detroit, Michigan. 20-month-old Tamyah Vaughn and her 10-year-old brother, Raylond were killed. Where were you when this happened?
[05:36] Later on you found out the crime happened around midnight… where was this house in relation to you? Did you know this family?
[06:27] Why do you think the thirteen-year-old brother of the victims told police he saw you commiting this crime?
[08:22] This young boy’s transcripts showed that he was inconsistent all along; he couldn’t get his stories straight!
[09:01] How did his statement come out at trial? Did your lawyer do a good job in demonstrating the inconsistent statements and impeach him?
[09:45] Your girlfriend Latoya Caulford was also charged, so she was unable to testify on your behalf. What was her charge?
[10:03] Did the boy say he saw her too?
[11:30] Latoya was acquitted… is this your children’s mother? Is she still part of yours and the kids’ lives?
[12:31] Let’s talk about the prosecutor, Patrick Muscat — he’s been a prosecutor on several of these wrongful conviction cases. He framed you to be a jilted lover who wanted revenge. When he said that, what was your reaction?
[13:33] There was testimony at your trial that stated you had gasoline on your clothes. Can you explain why that was?
[14:32] Police brought a dog in to identify fire accelerants at the scene of the crime. Muscat didn’t tell the jury that the dog is trained to detect petroleum-based products — a dog doesn’t know the difference between gasoline and perfume, or motor oil and glue, for example. Ken’s possessions that had gasoline on them were taken for testing at the lab and didn’t match any of the evidence at the scene of the crime.
[15:23] Didn’t a cop, Robert McGee, say that his dog linked your clothes to the crime, and his dog is never wrong?
[15:41] Were you satisfied with how your attorney defended you?
[16:31] We’ve done several wrongful conviction stories here on Open Mike, and one of the lynch pins that convicted many people were jail snitches, which are so problematic for so many reasons. And in your case, you had one who claimed you admitted to the firebombing. What do you know about this guy, and did he get a deal for testifying against you?
[17:52] Outrageous! Did he ever come clean and say he lied?
[18:56] Did the student’s interview eventually lead to your exoneration?
[19:51] Did you and your girlfriend get tried together?
[20:44] When you h
118- After a 25-Year Wrongful Incarceration, This Navy Veteran Reassembles Pieces of His Stolen Life
In June 1993, Navy veteran Derrick Sanders was arrested for the shooting death of a Milwaukee man he had assaulted seven months previously. Although he had no role in the man’s death, inept legal counsel advised him to plead no contest to charges of first-degree intentional homicide, party to a crime, and he was sentenced to 21 years to life in prison.
Over the next twenty-five years, Derrick would be entrenched in legal rigmarole after filing a motion to withdraw his plea. He argued that, due to his attorney’s inadequate explanation of potential punishment, he did not intelligently enter the plea. In August 2018, a Milwaukee County circuit judge granted Derrick’s motion to withdraw the plea. A few weeks later, the Assistant District Attorney dropped the charges and Derrick was a free man.
In this riveting, all-new episode, Derrick and Mike discuss the complex, systemic deficiencies that enabled Derrick’s wrongful conviction. Derrick also reflects on ways he would have advocated for himself more staunchly and drops some firsthand truth bombs about what we should know to protect ourselves from a false accusation.
[00:01] Welcome to Open Mike!
[00:33] Background and bio of today’s guest, Derrick Sanders.
[01:29] Hello, Mr. Sanders! Welcome to the show.
[02:07] You’re a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged, you had a well-paying job. But you got involved in assaulting Jason Bowie — what was that about?
[03:25] Your friend was Anthony Boddie, who got you involved in this, right? So, you were sticking up for him, beating up on the guy you thought stole the TV… when you left the scene, he was still alive?
[5:00] You decided to start cleaning up at the abandoned house… you had cleaning supplies there?
[05:32] So, you took off and what happened next?
[06:48] At what point did you hear the gunshot, or did you never hear it? Who shot Jason Bowie?
[07:33] Despite the fact that he was your friend, Anthony Boddie told police you were present for the shooting, which you weren’t. Is that correct?
[08:19] Didn’t John Peavey, in one of his eight statements, also claim you were present during the shooting?
[08:42] What did you tell police when they caught up with you in June 1993?
[09:32] At the end of your written statement, you expressed sorrow that this occurred over a television set. Why did you write those words?
[10:15] Both you and Boddie were charged with first-degree, intentional homicide and party to a crime. Did you know what party to a crime meant at that point?
[11:01] Your attorney, was he court-appointed? What kind of job did he do for you?
[12:39] Derrick’s private attorney urged him to plead no contest, which is basically unheard of for a murder case.
[13:19] The judge sentenced you to 21 years to life, with the possibility of parole in 2015. What went through your mind when you heard that?
[13:56] A couple years after you were incarcerated, your mother received a signed affidavit from Anthony Boddie. What did that affidavit say?
[16:49] Did your attorney lose his license after this?
[17:51] You spent twenty-two years in prison after the affidavit was sent. Why didn’t that letter get you out?
[19:38] Who was your appellate attorney throughout this? Because they did a great job getting the conviction overturned and presenting you options.
[20:41] It makes no sense — it seems like your second attorney was as bad as the first attorney! She had you plead guilty to the exact same charges after the appellate attorney got you all these options!
[22:55] One of the reasons we do these shows is to educate people. At the end of the day, you weren’t educated on criminal justice proceedings, and it’s your lawyer’s fault. But there is some responsibility on you… do you take that responsibility that you may not have done the right thing?
[24:31] To everybody listening… if you’re sitting in prison and you don’t agree with your lawyer, and it feels like som
117- Detroit Exoneree Eric Anderson Reflects on 9 Years Wrongfully Incarcerated for a Brutal Robbery
In April 2010, Eric Anderson was arrested and charged for involvement in a robbery and beating of two men outside their Detroit home. At the time of the crime, Anderson was actually at a Coney Island, ten miles from the scene, where he was shot in the foot, necessitating immediate medical attention.
Despite hospital records confirming his treatment, and Coney Island security footage substantiating his injury, Eric would spend nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, asserting his innocence the entire time.
The Michigan Innocence Clinic re-investigated Anderson’s claims of innocence and, following an interview with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, his sentence was vacated on April 30th, 2019.
How did such a convoluted chain of events transpire when multiple pieces of evidence corroborated Eric’s claims of innocence? Why was he allowed to languish in prison for so long when it was clear he couldn’t have committed this robbery?
Tune in to this mind-blowing, all-new installment of Open Mike to find out!
[00:01] Welcome to Open Mike!
[00:20] Eric Anderson’s background and bio.
[02:10] Welcome to the show, Eric. The story is kind of crazy and convoluted but, not to do a spoiler alert, you’re out of prison after spending nine years wrongfully incarcerated. Let’s show how ridiculous this conviction was.
[03:10] April 18th, 2010, about 3:30 in the morning. Tell us about your stop at Coney Island. What happened there that led to you being shot in the foot?
[04:14] You walk into the Coney and almost immediately get shot in the foot. Then what happened?
[06:02] You didn’t want to go to Detroit Receiving Hospital, which was closer, you chose to go to Sinai Grace because that’s the hospital you were familiar with? These facts become very relevant to your trial later.
[07:05] Were you released that night, or did they keep you overnight?
[07:38] At the same time of your shooting, two armed men with their shirts pulled up over their faces robbed 20-year-old Gregory Matthews Jr. and a friend, 19-year-old Stephon Tolin, on the street outside Matthews’s home in Detroit, Michigan. Did you know these two people?
[08:37] This happened a few miles from the Coney Island you were shot, is that true?
[10:05] One of the witnesses said they heard a gunshot as the assailants were turning a corner, which was included in the police report.
[10:30] Ten days later after you were shot, what happened?
[11:23] Police pulled over Eric (and his friend who was driving) and told Eric he was under arrest; they believed he robbed Gregory and Stephon and shot himself in the foot.
[11:44] Do you know how you became a suspect?
[14:25] Two weeks after Eric’s arrest, they transported him to Michigan State Police to take a polygraph test.
[16:28] To this day, you’ve never seen your face on surveillance footage from that Coney Island. But your distinctive, Ed Hardy jeans, tight hair, and other identifying markers could tie you to the scene of your shooting. Is it clear that, when you walk in, that’s you? Does the video show you getting shot in the foot?
[18:30] When you got the polygraph, did you have an attorney yet?
[18:56] For anyone watching… the second you are under arrest, stop talking and get an attorney, and let the attorney walk you through this process.
[19:10] You took the polygraph… did they tell you right then and there that you failed it? What did they say to you?
[19:43] In September 2010, Eric was offered a plea of probation. He declined because he didn’t commit the crime.
[20:40] Eric was confident that people upholding the system of justice would do the right thing, and he declined to hire an attorney to save money.
[22:59] Two months later, Eric went to trial with a court-appointed attorney who improperly represented him, and didn’t show the jury the surveillance footage, despite Eric’s urging. He provided the jury video stills instead
116- Detroit Man Who Served 17 Years for Murder Awaits New Trial After a State Prisoner Admits Guilt
Detroiter Thelonious Seaercy has wrongfully served 17 years behind bars for a murder that a self-professed hitman has confessed to committing.
Despite no evidence tying him to the scene of the alleged crime, Searcy is stuck in a holding pattern. He and his lawyer await to see if the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office appeals a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Why is he stuck under house arrest? Why doesn’t Prosecutor Worthy dismiss his charges?
Tune into this riveting episode of Open Mike to find out.
[00:07] Welcome to Open Mike!
[00:26] Thelonious Searcy’s background and bio.
[00:54] Welcome to the show, Thelonious. Your name came up on Episode 10 of Open Mike, and I learned about you a long time ago during the Davontae Sanford case. Your name came up because both of you were wrongfully convicted, and there’s a hitman out there doing the crimes! You’ve been out of prison since April 2021… what has life been like for you since getting out?
[02:14] The two children you mentioned — you had them even before you went to prison. How old are they? And your wife stuck by you the last seventeen years you were incarcerated?
[03:01] You’re out on bond right now waiting for a second trial. The Michigan Court of Appeals says you should be given a new trial. When you got that decision five months ago, how did you feel?
[04:13] What’s your understanding of why the Court of Appeals decided you deserve a second trial?
[05:27] What was the aspect of the case that made them decide you deserve a new trial?
[07:43] What is a 40-caliber bullet relevant?
[09:04] How did you find out that Jamal Segars was murdered?
[10:11] Although Thelonious was at a family BBQ with over a dozen alibi witnesses, he became a suspect in the case due to a jailhouse informant, whom he knew from the streets.
[17:05] Ten years after his conviction, Thelonious submitted a Brady Violation to his judge, but it was dismissed, claiming the information wasn’t new.
[18:32] That Brady Violation must have had something to do with you being granted a second trial. Is that true?
[23:20] You’re out on bond, you’re wearing a tether… Prosecutor Worthy has the ability to change her mind, but she says she wants to try you for a second time despite all these moving parts and various claims from multiple parties and admissions from hitmen… What about all the alibi witnesses, how many were called in the first trial?
[25:11] Thelonious had improper, paid representation from an attorney who is since deceased.
[25:52] Is your current attorney having discussions with Prosecutor Worthy about dismissing your second trial altogether?
[26:54] What do you think Prosecutor Worthy’s vendetta is?
[29:19] You’re confirmed to home in the meantime — do you have a trial date?
[29:49] Thelonious wrote eighteen books while he was incarcerated.
[29:56] Check out Thelonious’s book, Be First: Part 1 & 2 (Hood Novel) on Amazon!
[30:47] What do you think are the main reasons you were convicted in the first place?
[37:54] What did this alleged eyewitness, Natasha, testify to?
[39:29] You had this one eyewitness and three others who corroborated her claim … were they all there at the scene of the crime?
[40:13] You believe that the jury will believe the alleged hitman, Vincent Smothers, if he testifies and admits responsibility for this murder?
[40:57] I have a note here that says you recently graduated from Blackstone Career Institute… tell us what that is and what you hope to do with that, assuming that tether comes off!
[43:04] Amazing. Thelonious, I wish you the best of luck and I hope things go your way. Please keep us up to date on what happens! Your case was eye-opening, and I hope you keep in touch.
[44:21] Thelonious has a documentary in the works — be on the lookout for it in the next six months!
[45:30] Thelonious Searcy’s story isn’t over — we will see if Kym Worthy decides to try him a second time o
115- Washtenaw County Prosecutor Leverages Capitol Hill Wisdom to Abolish Cash Bail in His Community
Eli Savit is a nationally recognized attorney, public servant, and civil rights advocate who currently serves as the Washtenaw County Prosecutor. Prior to his term, he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a civil-rights and public-interest attorney, and also had a career as a public-school teacher. In addition to serving as Washtenaw County's Prosecuting Attorney, Eli is a faculty member at the University of Michigan Law School.
Eli has been an integral part of several major, successful civil rights and environmental initiatives in Michigan and across the country, including a successful effort to have the Michigan Civil Rights Commission recognize discrimination claims against LGBTQIA+ Michiganders, and assisting New Jersey, Maryland, and Puerto Rico in their quests to hold corporate polluters responsible for waterway contamination.
In this inspiring installment of Open Mike, Eli discusses his close relationship with late Justice Ginsberg, and how her tutelage helped inform his decision to carve out a career shaped by public service. Additionally, he and Mike consider the inherent problems with the American cash bail system (one of two for-profit bail systems in the world) and reflect on Eli’s recent, successful elimination of Washtenaw County’s cash bail program!
[00:09] Eli Savit’s background and bio as Washtenaw County Prosecutor.
[01:26] Welcome to the show, Eli! There was a prosecutor for how many years prior to you?
[2:03] How was taking over an office from someone who had been there for twenty-eight years?
[03:46] You were born and raised in Ann Arbor, went to U of M Law School, and were clerk for two United States Supreme Court Justices, is that right? Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. That had to have been amazing — what was that like?
[06:05] The same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, wasn’t that a Michigan case?
[07:50] The way that last year went down with the former president getting that appointment… that was such a horrible way that went down, and I’m sure it was sad for Justice Ginsberg’s legacy. Do you have any opinions on that?
[10:50] After working as a clerk for two icons, you could have had any job that you wanted, ones that pay more lucratively. What was that thought process like?
[12:46] The way you chose to run your campaign, one of radical inclusivity, was really impressive. When I read that, I wondered how you were going to make everyone happy — I’ve never heard of a campaign like that! Can you take us through that?
[17:19] Let’s talk about cash bail… last year, we filmed an episode with two young ladies who are reforming the system via Bail Project Detroit… it was such an eye-opening thing for me as an attorney. You’re the first prosecutor I personally know who has eliminated cash bail. Could you explain to our viewers why you believe so strongly cash bail should be done away with?
[25:57] Entire states are now abolishing cash bail. Washington D.C. got rid of it in 1992, and New Jersey got rid of it in 2017. Crime rates in New Jersey subsequently plummeted.
[27:55] Research shows that people will still show up to court, even without cash bail as an incentive! Something like 90% of people show up to their court dates, either way. Is that what you’re finding in Washtenaw?
[30:42] After the bail situation, what are some other initiatives your office is working on?
[31:09] On the first day of his term, Prosecutor Savit banned all zero-tolerance policies in favor of adopting a more holistic, case-by-case approach to various crimes and conditions under which they occurred.
[36:00] On Open Mike, we’ve had at least ten guests who were wrongfully convicted. As a prosecutor, what does your office see as your role in helping to free innocent people who were wrongfully convicted in Washtenaw county?
[40:28] There’s a lot of discussion about blanket immunity whic
114- After 32 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned for Murder, Gilbert Poole Is Reclaiming His Life
On December 27, 1988, North Carolina resident Gilbert Poole was arrested and charged with the murder of a Michigan man he had never met. Due to faulty evidence, inaccurate eyewitness testimony, and inept defense counsel, he would ultimately be wrongfully convicted of murder and spend the next 32 years of his life in prison.
After independently maintaining his innocence for the first 14 years of his incarceration, Mr. Poole was represented by the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project for the next 18 years. Post-conviction DNA testing was conducted on crime scene evidence that matched neither Poole’s nor the victim’s, prompting the Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit to conduct a full investigation that resulted in his exoneration on June 15th, 2021.
In this stunning and heartbreaking episode of Open Mike, Mr. Poole reflects on the profound personal losses he experienced because of his wrongful conviction, the little-known, harsh realities of the American criminal justice system, and how he intends to spend his remaining years as a free man.
[00:22] Welcome to Open Mike!
[00:25] Gilbert Poole’s background and bio.
[01:19] Welcome to the show, Gilbert! It’s so nice to have you here. We interviewed your attorney, Marla Mitchell-Cichon a few weeks ago and then you sent me a really nice email… tell our listeners and viewers what you thought of that interview and why you wanted to come on the show!
[03:19] May of 2021, Oakland County Judge Rae Lee Chabot set aside your conviction… we saw the photos of you exiting prison with your arms raised in victory — what was it like to walk out a free man after 32 years in prison for a crime you knew you didn’t commit and proclaimed your innocence over from day one?
[04:46] You went in at age 22 and came out at age 55… that’s a lifetime! What were some of the things that happened to your family while you were incarcerated that you can never get back?
[07:25] Did you have any siblings growing up?
[09:44] Who was Gilbert Poole at 22 years old when you were arrested? What were you up to at that point in your life?
[11:12] When you were arrested, you had a girlfriend who played a horrible, pivotal role in all this… what was her name? Were you living together at the time?
[12:59] About six months after the murder of Robert Meija, the date of which Gilbert was in Michigan instead of his native North Carolina, Gilbert’s girlfriend went to the police and implicated him in the murder — so she could have a ride from North Carolina back to Michigan.
[15:11] You get arrested for Robert’s murder; he was last seen leaving a bar where several patrons provided a description and composite sketch of a suspect some said looked like you. Did it look like you?
[17:02] Had you ever heard of Robert before? Or even been to that bar before?
[21:32] As you’re sitting there, listening to this bogus testimony, your head must just be exploding?
[24:30] Since Gilbert’s trial, bite-mark evidence has been debunked by countless leading forensic organizations. Prosecutors still try to bring it into trials, based on bad laws.
[26:29] Your lawyer didn’t give the jury a reason to disbelieve any of this shoddy evidence or testimony, no expert witnesses were called, nothing. What were they supposed to do other than believe it?
[27:27] 11 of the 12 exonerees we’ve had on Open Mike didn’t take the stand at their own trials.
[27:59] Your ex-girlfriend lied about what you told her… how did she get the information about this murder? Did she even know about it, or did she make it up when she was talking to the police and falsely claimed you had previously killed?
[29:54] Did she testify at trial?
[32:31] Due to Gilbert’s education level and lack of “finesse” in presenting his arguments as opposed to a license lawyer, the concerns he repeatedly voiced to the court of appeals were not taken seriously and dismiss
Wide variety of topics
Cool podcast so far. Wide range of topics from local news to health and wellness. Fun and entertaining. Highly recommend.
This is my attorneys podcast. Highly recommend. Covering some great issues.
A great informative podcast!!