DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Two brothers who were freed after spending 25 years in prison on a now-overturned Detroit murder conviction face a retrial this fall.
A retrial is scheduled to start Oct. 7, 2013 for Thomas and Raymond Highers, who are accused of shooting a marijuana dealer at a house in Detroit.
Then-Detroit Judge Terrance Boyle convicted the Highers in 1988 in a nonjury trial. Talon found the men guilty of first-degree murder in the June 1987 shooting death of 65-year-old Robert Karey at his home near Detroit City Airport.
Their convictions were overturned last summer and Wayne County Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon ordered the Highers freed on $10,000 bonds after new witness testimony suggested the brothers may have been misidentified.
Talon acted based on new testimony from witnesses who didn’t come forward after the fatal shooting. The witnesses, former Grosse Pointe schools friends, claimed they they were at Karey’s house the night he was shot.
Two of the witnesses said they went to the back door to buy marijuana from Karey, who was known as Old Man Bob. One witness, John Hielscher, testified that they were interrupted by several armed black men who rushed into the backyard and ordered them to leave; the Highers brothers are white. One witness also testified he heard a gunshot as they fled back to the car.
Hielscher said he didn’t come forward at the time out of fear and didn’t learn for two decades that the Highers had been convicted and sentenced to prison.
Prosecutors have questioned the witnesses’ credibility, calling them liars and suggesting there was a conspiracy to free the Highers.
The effort to reopen the case began in early 2012 when Washington lawyer Kevin Zieleniewski learned that the Highers brothers were in prison for Karey’s killing. Zieleniewski said he had roomed with Hielscher and remembered his account of the robbery.
Zieleniewski said it took two meetings to persuade Hielscher to sign an affidavit and testify.
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