Some good news–“There can’t be a brighter day.”

There will be no retrial for Juwan Deering, 50, who was exonerated last week for an arson fire that killed five children. He spent 15 years in prison after being convicted in an Oakland County case which Prosecutor Karen McDonald said was without probable cause and “fraught with misstatements and misconduct.”

Deering expressed gratitude to McDonald, who “stood up when she saw something was wrong and did the right thing.” That takes courage in a milieu like Oakland County with its law enforcement and a bench that tends to heavily support the prosecution. The Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan’s law school asked McDonald for a new trial early this year, and she ordered a review of the case. Her predecessors would have looked the other way, of that I have no doubt.

Obviously I am writing about this case because it says something hopeful and encouraging about the OCP office now that Karen McDonald is prosecutor. I am also commenting on it because of what took place in Oakland County law enforcement and prosecution that resulted in an unfair trial in 2006. While a few people write me to defend the bench and bar of Oakland County (you haven’t swayed me), what happened to Juwan Deering exposes a version of what I and others have come to expect from prosecutors, investigators and judges in Oakland County. May this be the beginning of the end of that long and sad era. Today the scales of justice tend more toward balance.

Deering never should have been tried, McDonald said, adding that looking into his case “was the right thing to do — (but) not the easiest thing to do, by any means.”

The case was tried by assistant prosecutor Gregory Townsend, who went on to work as an assistant attorney general for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Townsend was part of the team handling an alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. He was reassigned last spring when the Deering case made headlines again and retired in July.

Presiding judge was Wendy Potts, who retired in 2018.

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