Wrongfully convicted of murder and released, two men file a lawsuit against local police.
George Clark, 49, and Kevin Harrington, 38, both former inmates who were wrongfully convicted of murder and spent nearly 18 years behind bars, have joined together to file a $160 million federal lawsuit against the city of Inkster and two former law enforcement agents. The men were exonerated in April 2020 after having received life sentences in the 2002 for the murder of Michael Martin.
“People might say, ‘$160 million, that is a crazy amount of money,’” Wolf Mueller, the attorney representing the men, said. “That is a lot of money. So is the harm of putting two people in a cage for 18 years for something they didn’t do.”
Martin was shot to death and his body was discovered in a field near his Inkster apartment. Clark and Harrington pleaded not guilty, and there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime. Several witnesses had identified another man, who is deceased, as the shooter.
Clark said, “I always knew I was innocent,” so, he said, he never gave up that he would one day be freed. He missed watching his children, now 18 and 32, grow up. “I can’t make up for it,” he said. “But from this point on, I do the best I can.”
“I got crazy faith,” Harrington added, recounting how he refused to plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit even though he was offered a shorter sentence. “I was going to stand up for what was right.”
His refusal to take a plea deal had a lot to do with his upbringing. “My mother always told me something when I was a child: ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’ That was something that I could never agree to knowing that I was innocent of this crime.”
Clark and Harrington decided to file their lawsuit in order to help prevent the same thing from happening to others. Mueller said former detectives Anthony Abdallah and Kevin Smith “hid evidence that pointed to someone else and threatened a single mother with jail if she didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.” He added, “She made up a story implicating two men who hardly knew each other as co-conspirators of the murder” and now the officers “should be held accountable for the harm they caused.”
In total, Harrington underwent four trials. The first verdict was overturned, the next two resulted in hung juries and the fourth resulted in a first-degree murder conviction. “I’m through the roof at this moment,” He said, adding, “I feel just so amazingly blessed. I’m doing awesome.”
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit investigated the case for six months and played a significant role in Harrington’s release. “We found a very troubling pattern of behavior from the original lead detective that involved threatening and coercing a number of witnesses,” said Maria Miller, a spokesperson for the office.
“This is an unbelievable case of police misconduct,” Attorney Imran Syed, assistant director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic said. “The only witness against [Harrington] was clearly coerced by the investigating officer and she actually recanted at all of the trials.” Inkster police threatened to take away the witness’ children.
“We’ve got to make sure the light is shined so bright on this, any officer or any detective who wants to do something like this, he won’t,” Harrington said. “Why? Because they will be held accountable. No matter who you are, you are not above the law.”