DETROIT (WXYZ) — After 26 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit, a Detroit man is sharing his journey from imprisonment to exoneration.
At just 18 years old, Bernard Howard had to learn harsh realities of a broken system. Spending 26 years in prison, for a murder he had nothing to do with – he’s now a free man.
"Prosecutor Worthy, Assistant Prosecutor Newman, Assistant Prosecutor Stanyer, you saved a life today," said 3rd Circuit Court Judge Hon. Marian Bazzi.
In a virtual hearing that left attorneys, the judge and Bernard Howard all fighting back tears came a moment of relief. Bernard had been serving three life sentences for a triple murder based on a false confession from 1994 and lies told by a corrupt Detroit police informant.
“Mr. Howard, you have been given back what has been taken from you," said the Hon. Marian Bazzi. "You understand more than everyone here and watching, how precious our time is.”
“I just like to thank the prosecutors and everyone who helped. Without them, I wouldn’t be sitting here now," Bernard said.
Prosecutors say Bernard, who is now a father and grandfather, was mistakenly convicted in an unfair trial that relied heavily on the false testimony of detectives and an informant – an informant used repeatedly to testify in more than 20 cases.
“There was significant evidence Mr. Howard did not commit, participate or have any knowledge or involvement in this crime in any way, shape or manner," said Valerie Newman, CIU Director at the Wayne Co. Prosecutor’s Office.
“They’ve seen without question I was innocent, and they went all the way to get me out," said Bernard.
Now, at 44 years old, he’s thanking the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for taking another look at his case and proving his innocence after every other appeal attempt failed.
A native of Detroit's eastside, Bernard says this work has saved his life and his attorney agrees.
“He would have died in prison and was determined to be completely, factually innocent," said Wolfgang Mueller of Mueller Law Firm.
Wolfgang Mueller represented Bernard in a civil case, seeking compensation for years of his life stolen in a sinister fashion, years when he lost loved ones, missed out in his youth and building a future.
“It was a completely false confession," said Mueller. "What they did to Bernard Howard is absolutely abhorrent to a just criminal justice system.”
Bernard says he’s no longer angry towards anyone, and just wants to stay positive. His attorney Wolfgang Mueller plans to file a civil suit next week.