Man convicted in '86 slaying loses commutation bid

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm refused Tuesday to release from prison a man who insists he was wrongly convicted of killing another man in a college parking lot in Port Huron in 1986.

Granholm followed the recommendation of the state parole board, which recently voted 11-0 against commuting the life sentence of Temujin Kensu, said Katie Carey, a spokeswoman for the governor.

The board, which held a public hearing in September, was not convinced that Kensu was innocent and no longer posed a threat to public safety, Carey said.

Kensu, 47, was convicted of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Scott Macklem in a parking lot at St. Clair County Community College. The victim had planned to marry Kensu's former girlfriend.

Kensu, who was known then as Fred Freeman, has said he was hundreds of miles away in the Upper Peninsula when Macklem was killed. His case has been handled by the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school and has drawn support from people in law enforcement and former state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Brennan.

"I'm obviously disappointed," said Bridget McCormack, co-director of the Innocence Clinic. "I had hoped that he would receive a commutation, but I respect the governor's position."

In October, a federal judge in Detroit overturned Kensu's conviction and said he deserves a new trial due to prosecutorial misconduct and other problems at his 1987 trial. He remains in prison while the Michigan attorney general's office appeals that decision. McCormack, meanwhile, is trying to persuade U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood to release him on bond.

"Luckily for Kensu, he still has a legal process available for him," she said.

Granholm leaves office Jan. 1 and still must decide a similar request from Tom Cress, a Battle Creek-area man who claims he is innocent of the killing of a girl 25 years ago. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is among his supporters.

Published: Thu, Dec 23, 2010