Two men fighting to overturn their convictions for 1999 Mother's Day murder shot down in court again

DETROIT (WXYZ) - There's a double-dose of bad news for two men fighting to overturn their convictions for a 1999 Mother's Day Murder in Detroit. Both have had appeals rejected, one by a judge in Wayne County and the other by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

This is a case the 7 Action News Investigators have been looking into for three years.  Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott are serving life behind bars for the murder of Lisa Kindred, a crime they swear they did not commit.

Lawyers for the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan have been fighting to get Johnson and Scott's convictions overturned. They say they are disappointed by these two rejections but they are not surprised. They say winning a new trial in a case that has no DNA evidence is always a tremendous uphill fight. 

Meanwhile, our last report on this case has sparked a random act of kindness, helping out the mom of one of the men who is locked up for this crime.

Ernestine Smith, the mother of Kendrick Scott, was able to visit her son in prison recently thanks to the kindness of a Channel 7 viewer.

Marie Woolen stepped forward to help after reading a story on We reported that the Michigan Innocence Clinic had just filed its first appeal for Smith's son. In the story, we mentioned that Smith had not seen her son in years because she is in poor health and has no transportation. When Woolen read that, she called Channel 7 and offered to take Smith to visit her son.

Woolen picked Smith up in Detroit and drove her to the Saginaw Correctional Facility.

 "I think our society, we tend to focus too much on me, me, me, versus we should be looking at we, we, we, because helping somebody always makes a difference and then it makes our community stronger," Woolen told 7 Action News before heading off for the visit.

On the day the two women went to Saginaw there was new hope for both Scott and Johnson. Lawyers from the Michigan Innocence Clinic had just filed their first appeal for Kendrick Scott. And the Court of Appeals was considering Johnson's fifth appeal.

Both appeals were based in part a new witness uncovered by the 7 Action News Investigators.

Lawyers were optimistic but recently got news that the appeals court has rejected Johnson's appeal. Staff attorney Imran Sayed says Johnson lost on technicalities, not facts.

"I think that's really what tripped him up here.  And it's difficult to explain that to people, that it's not about your guilt or innocence it's about whether you can get through this narrow hoop that you have to jump through to have your case even heard," said Sayed.

Shortly after Johnson was turned down by the appeals court, came word that Scott's appeal had also been rejected by Wayne County Circuit Judge James Callahan.

Sayed says he's disappointed about that as well but for a number of technical reasons he thinks Scott will have a better shot in the court of appeals.

Ernestine Smith and Marie Woolen made that trip to Saginaw to visit Scott in prison not knowing that Scott's first appeal was about to be shot down. The two say they had a great time together. Ernestine Smith says they have struck up a friendship.

"And I really like her. You know, because she was so nice, and she sponsored the whole trip, wouldn't take anything," Smith said.

Smith says she and Woolen plan to stay in touch.

Scott and Johnson were convicted on very slim evidence. Innocence lawyers in Wisconsin and Michigan has put forth a significant amount of evidence casting doubt on their guilt and pointing to someone else at the likely killer.


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