It has been a long road to freedom for Dwayne Provience.
In 2001 he was convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and after eight years in prison, he is today back with his family.
Last Friday, the University Law School’s Innocence Clinic, which has been working on Provience’s case for the past nine months, presented evidence to a criminal court in Detroit for a motion to relieve judgment. A prosecutor could then decide, based on the evidence, whether to take the case back to court or accept the motion. The prosecutor accepted the motion yesterday and Provience walked away, no longer convicted of the murder.
Provience’s journey, however, has not been an easy one.
In 2001, Provience was charged with the murder of Rene Hunter. Hunter was gunned down on the corner of Pembroke Street and Greenfield Road on the west side of Detroit and Larry Wiley, a Detroit resident, claimed Provience and his brother were responsible for the murder.
Earlier this year, however, Wiley recanted his testimony, saying he has recently been diagnosed with cancer and wanted to clear his conscience of the lies he said he told about Provience.
When he heard the news, Provience didn’t wait long to act, contacting the Innocence Clinic to help clear his name.
In March, the clinic agreed to help based on the recanted testimony of the prosecution’s key witness. It soon found that the case was a bit more complicated.
When the clinic first began looking into the case, Innocence Clinic workers found that the prosecution had obtained the police officer’s progress notes for the investigation. These progress notes revealed that the officers had linked Hunter’s murder to the murder of Courtney Irving, a Detroit resident who was killed one month after Hunter.
The prosecution failed to disclose this information during the trial.
According to those police progress notes, Hunter was killed by a group of brothers from Detroit referred to as the Mosleys.
“The Mosleys are a crime family,” second-year law student and Innocence Clinic member Nick Cheolas said. “These guys had a trailer full of weed, and they kept it in front of their house.”
Cheolas said that someone had stolen the trailer of weed from the Moselys’ yard and that a man from Detroit named Maurice “Bangy” Sutherland told the Mosleys that Hunter had stolen their “trailer full of weed.”
Cheolas said the Innocence Clinic’s theory suggests the Mosleys had Hunter killed because of this. The theory also suggests that Sutherland was later killed when the Mosleys found out that he was the one who had actually stolen the trailer.
Irving’s death was tied to the others, the theory suggests, because he supposedly knew that the Moselys, and not Provience, had killed Hunter.
Irving was going to take that information to the police, but when the Moselys found out they had Detroit resident Eric Woods kill Irving.
“The theory in Courtney Irving’s murder was that he was murdered because he knew who killed Rene Hunter,” second-year law student and Innocence Clinic member Brett DeGroff said. “He wasn’t going to say that Dwayne Provience did it, he was going to say that these fellows named the Mosleys did it.”
All of this information was detailed in the police investigator’s progress notes, but rather than investigating the Mosley family for Hunter’s murder, the prosecution hid its findings from the defense and attempted to convict Provience of the murder.
The second break for the students working on the case was the discovery of the author of the progress notes, Detroit Police Officer William Ashford.
Ashford patrolled the neighborhood at the time of the murders and knew its residents well.
“He was able to confirm that there was no connection between the Provience brothers and the Mosleys,” DeGroff said. “And it became clear, not only was Dwayne Provience not the perpetrator of this crime, but also that Dwayne Provience wasn’t involved at all.”
When told that Provience had been convicted of Hunter’s murder, the surprised Ashford told the current prosecutors the findings of his investigation, which pointed to the Mosley family and away from Provience.
The new evidence discovered by clinic members led the law students involved in the case to file a motion for relief of judgment, a motion that would forgive Provience’s 2001 conviction.
Second-year law student and Innocence Clinic member Robyn Goldberg said finding out that Provience would be forgiven of his 2001 conviction “was kind of unexpected in a good way.”
“We were supposed to have a hearing (yesterday) about the evidence, so the judge could decide whether Provience deserved relief of judgment, but on Friday the prosecution gave in and said we’re not going to fight you, we agree, he deserves relief of judgment,” she said.
Provience isn’t out of the woods yet. Rather than being forgiven of the murder charge, he is given the opportunity to face another trial, though at the discretion of the prosecutors.
“It would be insane to go after him again,” DeGroff said. “Now what’s probably going to happen is that Dwayne is going to remain free on bond until the prosecution formally decides that they’re not going to prosecute a second time.”
“At that point, he gets his bond money back and goes free.”