Wrongful convictions continue to cast a long shadow over the lives of many individuals in Michigan and across the United States. According to data from the National Registry of Exonerations, Michigan ranks among the top states for wrongful convictions with 65 documented exonerations to date. The state is making headway to right these wrongful convictions, however. According to the Registry’s 2022 Annual Report, Michigan had the second most exonerations in the nation with 16. Eleven of those were wrongful murder convictions.  

Kenneth Nixon, president of the Organization of Exonerees, is among those who has been wrongfully convicted. Serving nearly 16 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit, Nixon’s story reflects the harrowing challenges faced by exonerees upon their release. His mission now is to help other exonerees through the hurdles of re-entry — obtaining a proper ID and Social Security card, getting transportation, securing a job and finding stable housing.  

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In an effort to empower the wrongfully convicted and pave the way for meaningful change, Nixon and Valerie Newman, deputy chief and director of the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, are hosting a fundraiser titled “When Innocence Isn’t Enough” from 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Huntington Tower in Detroit. The event will raise money to support the needs of exonerees and raise awareness about the issues of wrongful convictions and the need for reform in Michigan’s criminal justice system. 

“American Black Journal” host Stephen Henderson talks with Nixon and Newman about their upcoming fundraiser in recognition of International Wrongful Conviction Day, which is celebrated annually on Oct. 2. Plus, they discuss the challenges that those returning to society after wrongful convictions face and how Newman and Nixon are working to create a more just and equitable criminal justice system.

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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.