DETROIT (WXYZ) - Lawyers for the Michigan Innocence Clinic are ramping up efforts to free a man doing life in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit.
They're filing another appeal based on a new witness uncovered by 7 Action News Investigator Scott Lewis.
Scott is now looking for a second witness who also might have been overlooked by police.
Lawyers for the Michigan Innocence Clinic were running out of options until the 7 Action News Investigators breathed new life into the case.
Mother's day 1999 , 35-year-old Lisa Kindred is shot while parked on the street with her three kids in her minivan. She drives to a gas station, collapses and dies.
Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott are sent to prison for life based on what critics say was thin evidence and a sloppy police investigation.
A few weeks ago, the 7 Action News Investigators tracked down Kindred's oldest son who was in the van that night. He was 8 1/2 at the time and I discovered police never even talked to him.
Our conversation went like this:
Q: “Could you see the person who did this?
Q: “Could you identify them?”
Q: “Did the police ever question you?”
Q: “Never looked at a photo lineup?”
CJ Skinner told me it was not a botched robbery as police claimed, he saw one man, not two, and his description doesn't seem to match either of the men in prison
That information has changed the entire direction of this case.
Innocence lawyers representing Justly Johnson recently filed a last-ditch appeal called a habeas in Federal Court after all of their appeals were rejected in state court.
But now, Federal Judge Bernard Friedman has put that case on hold. He's given lawyers 60 days to file a new appeal in state court based on this new witness uncovered by the 7 Action News Investigators.
Now we're looking for your help locating another possible witness who might have been overlooked by police, Justly Johnson's alibi witness; a man he knew only as Mike.
The prosecution’s case was built largely on the testimony of two men who said they heard Johnson and Scott talking about the murder. According to sworn affidavits, both witnesses later recanted saying they lied after being threatened by the police.
One of those witnesses, Antonio Burnette, now tells Action News he was actually with Justly Johnson that night and they were nowhere near the murder scene when it happened. He says he and Johnson were riding around with a casual friend they knew only as Mike.
Justly Johnson says he told police everywhere he Antonio and Mike went that night and who they talked to. But cops only talked to one person and never looked for Mike.
"If they would have talked to they him he would have verified and given more credibility to my story, and they would have seen that I was with Antonio at that particular time,” says Johnson.
Recently, the 7 Action News Investigators went out with Antonio Burnette looking for Mike, but we had no success.
Remember, it's been 11 years since the murder happened.
Burnette told me Mike might have lived in an apartment building on Agnes near Jefferson and Holcomb. Justly Johnson says Mike drove a gold Dodge Dynasty.
"He was a dark skinned guy, you know what I'm saying,” Johnson says. “He had, like, a low hair cut. He had no facial hair, a little moustache, thin moustache. I'd say he was maybe between 25, 24-years-old."
If there is an alibi witness out there named Mike, and he could be located, that would be powerful new evidence, adding to what Lisa Kindred's son CJ revealed to the investigators. Skinner is now in prison himself in Pennsylvania.
Lawyers from the Innocence Clinic are trying to arrange a visit with CJ Skinner. They plan to get a sworn affidavit to use in their new appeal, and show him a photo lineup that will include pictures of the two men serving life for the crime.
Skinner told me doesn't know Justly Johnson or Kendrick Scott and has no reason to protect either of them.
Q: “And if you looked at the pictures and one of them was the guy, you'd say so?”
A: “Yes sir."
Now back to this possible alibi witness named Mike. If you think you know who he is and where we can find him, contact the 7 Action News Investigators. You can call our tip line at 248-827-9252or hit us up on the internet at Tips@WXYZ.com .
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During his 22 years as a Detroit Cop, Mike Carlisle had a reputation as a no- nonsense guy who got the job done. During his last 10 years, he tackled some of Detroit's most difficult murder cases.
Will Kindred says he was just walking out of his brother-in-law’s house when he heard a loud noise like a car door slamming and saw his wife’s van speeding down the street.
Will Kindred was well known to Roseville Police for taking his rage out on his wife and children. Public records show police were called to Kindred's home 17 times in four years for domestic issues. Some of the incidents were disturbingly violent.
In the hours and days following the Kindred murder, Detroit Police searched five homes and an apartment looking for evidence that would connect Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott to the killing. Police records show they found nothing.
Justly Johnson, convicted in the murder of Lisa Kindred, says there is a man who can vouch for his innocence but he doesn’t know his last name, or where to find him.
Judge Prentis Edwards found Justly Johnson guilty after a two-day trial. There was no jury. He acknowledged there were no eyewitnesses and there was only circumstantial evidence.
Shortly after the murder of Lisa Kindred, Detroit Police had two witnesses who fingered Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott as the killers. But their stories were not consistent. They even disagreed on which of the two men actually pulled the trigger.
According to the affidavits, Lisa Kindred told Jodi Gonterman that if anything ever happened to her she should suspect her husband Will Kindred. According to the affidavits, from people who talked to Kindred's sister, Lisa also told her sister that if anything happened to her, she wanted Gonterman to have custody of her kids.
For 12 years, Justly Johnson has been fighting to get his story out. Now you can hear, in Johnson’s own words, why he thinks he deserves a shot at freedom. After a couple months of studying this murder case, I decided it was time for a face-to-face meeting with Justly Johnson.
The only significant piece of physical evidence left behind by the killer of Lisa Kindred is the casing from the small caliber bullet that pierced her heart.
Justly Johnson was 24 years old when he was arrested for the murder of Lisa Kindred and unless he is successful on appeal, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
With all of the questions surrounding the murder of Lisa Kindred, one thing is undisputed; she and her husband had a very stormy on-again, off-again relationship.
When Justly Johnson was convicted in 2000, he immediately started working to get a new trial. Johnson contacted Innocence Projects in every state. At that time, Michigan had only one Innocence Project at Cooley Law School in Lansing and they only accepted cases with DNA evidence.
Lawyers for the Michigan Innocence Clinic are ramping up efforts to free a man doing life in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit.