Exonerated men, heartbroken families fight for justice for those 'wrongfully convicted'

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 19:08:02-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "It's been a struggle, you know, to sit up here and try to convince people of my innocence," said Clyde Jordan, a prisoner in the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Jordan is serving a life sentence for First Degree Murder. He was convicted in the shooting death of a man in 1993, but it's a crime he has always maintained he did not commit.

Jordan says exculpatory evidence that would have led to him being found not guilty, or not even charged with the murder, was suppressed at trial - including ballistic evidence and information from the Detroit Police officer Jordan says would have supported a neighbor's testimony that Jordan was bleeding heavily on his porch when they heard another series of gunshots.

The officer was never called to the stand to testify that not only did the neighbor report hearing a second series of shots fired but the neighbor's relatives did as well.

Clyde maintains that evidence was intentionally withheld by the lead detective in the case.

That same detective, who is now retired, was also accused of threatening witnesses in a separate case that ultimately resulted in that man being exonerated, according to the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU).

"They twisted the facts of what actually took place and made it their own reality," Jordan told 7 Action News from prison.

Jordan believes his only hope of being released from prison after 28 years lies with the CIU.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy created the unit in 2018 so that they could investigate claims of innocence.

Since 2018, the unit has determined that nearly 30 prisoners were wrongfully convicted and they worked with Worthy to petition the courts for their release.

Clyde's sister, April Jordan, has been his right hand on the outside, delivering paperwork and seeking any avenue for help.

"I've been fighting this with him since he been locked up," April said. "I'm ready for him to come home."

April says the fight to help free her brother can, at times, be depressing, knowing she doesn't have the money, the right connections, or anyone who will even listen.

"Not having the funds, not knowing the right roads to go down, you know, not knowing who to talk to," she said. "You know, it really hurts."

April 8, 1993

Clyde Jordan admits he earned money by selling drugs and said that's why he says a couple of acquaintances targeted him for an armed robbery.

The men were at an apartment on Goulburn on the city's east side where Jordan was living with his girlfriend and their two small children.

Jordan said he began to suspect something was about to go sideways so he went into the bedroom and told his girlfriend to get down on the ground.

Jordan grabbed a gun and went back to the living room where he saw the men had gone outside and one of them said the others wanted to talk to him outside. Jordan said he declined and the man repeated the request.

That's when Jordan said they opened fire on him, striking him several times. He said he reached for his gun that he put right next to the door to return fire.

Jordan said he feared for his life and the lives of his girlfriend and small children.

Jordan says he staggered to a neighbor's house for help.

In a police report taken the night of the shootings, that neighbor told police that he heard a series of shots that night and looked outside his window and observed a man on his porch, asking for help.

When the neighbor did not open the door, Jordan broke a bedroom window with his hand. The neighbor then went out onto the porch, helped Jordan into a chair, and then called police.

The neighbor told the officer that while Jordan was on the porch with him, he heard "several more shots fired." He added that Jordan kept stating "he was set up."

And the neighbor wasn't alone in his house. Relatives, including a 71-year-old woman and a 47-year-old woman, were also home when Jordan began banging on the window.

But it appears the officer's report containing all of those details was never admitted into court.

The neighbor was called to the stand as a witness for the defense, and he testified that he first noticed "a lot of gunshots" that night. And he told jurors that "five to seven minutes later," he heard what sounded like someone thumping on their house, and then came the loud noise of the window breaking.

The neighbor told the court that he only opened the door because he and his family had firearms for protection.

The person on his porch, Clyde Jordan, told him to call 911 because he'd been shot. The neighbor testified that he kept trying to keep Jordan alert because he feared he was going to pass out because he was "bleeding real bad."

Moments later is when the neighbor said, "I heard some more gunshots."

By the time police arrived, the man said Jordan "had rolled down the front porch out onto the grass."

Then it was time for the assistant prosecutor to question the neighbor.

"And you never mentioned anything about the second set of shots, did you?" the assistant prosecutor asked.

"Yes, I mentioned it to the police," the man replied.

Prosecutors then asked the man to point out where on the police statement he signed did he say anything about a second set of shots.

The man looked over the statement and couldn't find it. It's unclear if the assistant prosecutor knew that there was a police report that had not been admitted into evidence which would have supported the neighbor's testimony about hearing a second set of gunshots

In his 28-year quest to find out how he could have been convicted of a crime he claims he did not commit, Clyde Jordan's research led him to discover that police report.

Jordan said that police report was "suppressed" by the officer in charge of the case, and perhaps others, in order to obtain a conviction.

In addition to that, Jordan said he's also uncovered ballistic evidence that would have helped the jury see that it wasn't a round from his firearm that killed the victim.

'Little Man'

A friend of Clyde Jordan, who was sleeping on his couch when he heard the first set of gunshots, testified that he left the apartment to check on Jordan because his girlfriend was screaming that he was dead.

The friend testified that he went outside, didn't see Jordan, and came back and told Jordan's girlfriend, "He ain't out there, so he can't be dead."

The friend then testified that he ran off. He said he was headed to his sister's house when he accidentally ran into the door of a car that was making a turn. He said he saw someone familiar inside the vehicle.

"Who is it?" the prosecutor asked.

"They call him Little Man," he replied. And he said Little Man had a "chrome nine millimeter" in his hand.

The man testified that he saw the vehicle Little Man was in drive up next to the victim, who had been crawling, and shoot him three times in the back.

"It's impossible for me to sit up here and be in two places at the same time," said Jordan, who still seems to struggle with the fact that he's been sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars.

"My sister, she's the one that been holding down the family and stuff while everybody else, you know, left me here to die," he said.

"I'm his rock. I feel like he's mine," his sister said.

The Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) has said that they will review Jordan's case. But, unfortunately, the relatively small staff can only do so much at a time.

Currently, the CIU is reviewing about 50 cases. They have requests to review about 1,700 more. And even some of those seeking relief are exactly where they belong.

But Jordan and other prisoners like Marcel Smith, who maintains he was not involved or even near the scene of the homicide for which he was convicted and sentenced to life, say the system didn't just fail them, someone broke it.

"They did anything they could possibly do to get a conviction, no matter if the accused was innocent or guilty," he said.

While Jordan maintains the shots he fired did not kill anyone, he said any shots he did fire should have been considered self-defense because he had been shot and was returning fire.

"A Black man in America don't have the right to sit up and claim self-defense in any way, shape, form, or fashion. No matter where it's coming from."

Whenever April sees another prisoner granted relief with the help of the Wayne County Conviction Integrity, it is bittersweet.

"I, honestly, believe when I see the rest of them guys get out, I say he's coming home next," April said as she tried to hold back her tears. "So, when I get on the phone with him, I'll say, 'You know, it's going to be your turn, right?'"

"He says, 'Yeah, this year.' And I'll say, 'Yeah, this year, you'll be home.'"