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Temujin Kensu’s bid for justice turned down by state Conviction Integrity Unit

Photo courtesy of Paula Kensu. Temujin and Paula Kensu.

By Jim Bloch

“Bad news out of Lansing today,” said Paula Kensu, wife of Temujin Kensu, the man convicted of the 1986 of the murder of Scott Macklin in a St. Clair Community College parking lot.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit turned down Kensu’s latest attempt to be exonerated for a crime he claims he did not commit.

“I’m crushed,” said Paula.

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Kensu, whose name was Frederick Freeman at the time of the murder, has maintained his innocence throughout his 35 years in prison.

The CIU announced its decision on May 17 in a letter to the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, which has been handling Kensu’s case for about a dozen years.

“The CIU investigation has uncovered no new evidence that supports the factual innocence claim,” said Special Assistant Attorney General Valerie Newman in her letter to Imran Syed of the Innocence Clinic.

“The AG guidelines mandate that there must be new evidence supporting factual innocence,” Newman wrote. “New evidence means evidence, not at all considered at trial or during post-conviction appeals.”

Newman noted that “the one person, Beth Stier, who is new does not enhance the alibi that was presented at trial as there were people with Kensu after she left him.”

“Kensu’s case is now closed in this office.”

As many as eight people testified that Kensu was in the Upper Peninsula at the time of the murder.

Paula Kensu was dismayed by the CIU’s decision.

“The CIU has no integrity,” Ms. Kensu said. “Because of this corrupt decision, thousands of innocent men and women will surely die in prison. I’m very disheartened, very disappointed.”

She talked to Temujin in Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox Township shortly after the CIU announced its decision.

“He’s not surprised,” said Paula. “With the length of time it was taking, he thought a decision wouldn’t come before the election.”

The case has been under consideration at the CIU since 2020.

Michigan Attorney General Dan Nessel is up for reelection in the fall.

“Obviously, I am disappointed in the AG’s decision,” said Syed of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, which on its website calls Kensu’s case “among the most overwhelming cases of actual innocence anywhere in the country.”

Considering the overarching issues of guilt or innocence, turning down Temujun’s case out on the basis of the lack of new evidence seems like a technicality. It suggests that innocent people may be kept in prison in absence of “new” evidence.

“We know juries can get it wrong,” said Syed.

But Newman’s decision is clearly in line with the functions of the CIU as described on Michigan.gov.

The CIU “does not function as a ’13th juror’ to review factual questions that already have been decided by a jury. Its mission is to determine whether new evidence shows that an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, and to recommend steps to rectify such situations.”

Paula said that there were at least a dozen facts that have emerged since Kensu’s conviction three decades ago that the jury was not aware of.

“I would have thought that this case is why the CIU should exist,” said Syed. He called the criteria of new evidence “needlessly and overly narrow.”

Syed said the Wayne County CIU has taken a much broader approach to its investigations.

Meanwhile, Newman emphasized the thoroughness of her review.

“As part of my review, I read all the materials provided to me by your office, the AG, and the voluminous materials received from Herb Wesler,” said Newman.

Wesler, who was a Port Huron police officer at the time of the murder, has personally investigated the murder for about 15 years. There were no eyewitnesses to the murder. Two witnesses identified someone leaving the scene who resembled Kensu, but Welser discovered that the photo lineup used was manipulated in such a way to bias the selection of Kensu.

“I interviewed multiple people myself (with my detective) and conducted an independent investigation,” said Newman. “I do not need to tell you that Kensu has vigorously litigated his case over the past three decades. He has been represented by lawyers who have combed the record for new information and legal issues. Everything related to this case has been litigated to some degree…”

Paula Kensu would not say exactly what their next step would be.

“We have our attorney working on something,” she said, referring to Syed and the Innocence Clinic.

“Given the strong evidence of Kensu’s innocence, we’ll keep working,” said Syed.

He said that he would likely file a new motion in an effort to get a court to properly consider some of the evidence in the case for the first time.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com.

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