DETROIT (AP) — A man in prison for murder since 1996 was exonerated Wednesday after authorities agreed that his conviction was spoiled by the faulty testimony of an informant and the results of DNA testing.
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now,” Lacino Hamilton said. “I am extremely grateful and look forward to being a productive citizen in our community.”
Hamilton, 45, was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1994 death of a Detroit woman. He was sentenced to at least 52 years in prison, which meant no opportunity for parole until 2046.
But two attorneys, Mary Chartier and Takura Nyamfukudza, took up his case, along with the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School Innocence Project. A special unit in the prosecutor’s office that looks at possible wrongful convictions also investigated.
DNA found under the victim’s fingernails excluded Hamilton. The DNA evidence was never disclosed before the 1995 trial and wasn’t tested at the time.
“In addition to that, and perhaps even more alarming, is the woefully improper use of informants in this case by the Detroit police department,” Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said. “The use of informants can be a very valuable tool in fighting crime and seeking justice, but in this case it was used and abused horribly.”