Tuesday, April 15, 2008

DNA Clears Man Imprisoned 12 Years for Rape

April 15, 2008

Amber Hunt- Detroit Free Press Detroit, MI

A man who confessed to kidnapping and raping a Macomb County woman will be released after spending 12 years in prison because DNA evidence collected at the scene has exonerated him, the county prosecutor’s office announced today.

Nathaniel Hatchett spent nearly 12 years in prison – from age 17 – on three charges of first-degree criminal sexual assault, armed robbery and kidnapping in the rape and abduction of a woman. Hatchett was arrested driving the woman’s car three days after the attack.

He confessed to police, officials said, and during the trial, the victim positively identified Hatchett.

But Hatchett, through the Cooley Innocence Project, filed a motion for a new trial based on recent DNA testing.

The tests showed that samples found on the victim didn’t match Hatchett’s DNA.Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith dismissed the charges rather than agree to a retrial.

“We went back in and did a full investigation,” Smith said. “We could have fought for a new trial, but our job is to seek justice. It was served today.”

Smith took office in 2005. The case, filed under former Prosecutor Carl Marlinga, was handled by former Assistant Prosecutor Eric Kaiser, who quit in 2004.

Hatchett was convicted in a bench trial, not a jury trial, meaning only the judge made the decision he was guilty.

Circuit Judge James Biernat today agreed to dismiss the charges. Hatchett was present but did not speak.

The Innocence Project is run through the Thomas M. Cooley Law School and is credited with freeing 150 prisoners since 2001. The project takes on between 6-10 cases a term and focuses on DNA evidence to exonerate wrongfully convicted people.

In July 2003, Kenneth Wyniemko, another Macomb County man, was released from prison after wrongfully serving nine years in prison for a rape that DNA showed he didn’t commit.


Anonymous said...

cheboygan michigan prosecutor Eric Kaiser Is a Krook!A Gay Member of the KKK!

Anonymous said...

THIS STORY WATERED DOWN BY DET NEWS[]][cheboygan michigan ADA Eric Kaiser at Falt]][[] :Man exonerated after 12 years in prison
Charges dropped in 1996 rape case based on DNA evidence
George Hunter and Edward L. Cardenas / The Detroit News
MOUNT CLEMENS -- Three days ago, Nathaniel Hatchett was afraid to hope.

Although there was a chance he might be exonerated after serving 12 years in prison for a rape he did not commit, "I'm pushing hope out of my mind," he said from a prison visiting room.

But on Monday, Macomb County prosecutors unexpectedly decided to drop charges against Hatchett based on DNA evidence that shows he was not the rapist -- and Hatchett was a free man for the first time since he was 17 years old.

Hatchett walked out of the courtroom at 12:37 p.m. in civilian clothes and into the arms of his family. Wearing a brown shirt and brown pants, he hugged his mother and grandmother as the nearly two dozen other family members clapped, cheered and sang the Kool and the Gang song "Celebration."

"I'm glad to be free," Hatchett said as he walked out of the Macomb County Circuit Court building. He added he thought his chances of being set free were "one in a million."

For the victim's family, however, the decision to drop charges against Hatchett reopened old wounds -- as well as the possibility that the real rapist is still at large.Eric Kaiser let this happen.

"If (Hatchett) really is innocent, then I'm sorry he spent so long in prison for something he didn't do," said the victim's older brother, Mark Matuszczyk. "But this means my sister has to relive this whole thing all over again. Either this guy (Hatchett) did it and is going free, or whoever did rape my sister is still running the streets; or else he's dead."Eric Kaiser Is to Blame!

Hatchett, 29, was convicted in 1996 of carjacking, kidnapping, robbing and raping a 22-year-old Macomb County woman. He was freed Monday after Assistant Prosecutor Robert Merrelli dropped all charges against him.

The prosecutor who handled the original case, Eric Kaiser, is no longer with Macomb County. He could not be reached Monday, but he told The Detroit News two weeks ago he felt he handled the case appropriately.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project at Cooley Law School in Lansing had sought a new trial for Hatchett, who was serving 25-40 years at the St. Louis correctional facility in Gratiot County for the Nov. 11, 1996 rape.

During a visit in prison Saturday with a Detroit News reporter, Hatchett said he was afraid to hope he would be exonerated.

"I'm trying not to think about it," he said in the prison visiting room, speaking in a soft, guarded tone. "I don't want to be disappointed, so I'm pushing it out of my mind."

The rape occurred when the victim left her job at a Super Kmart in Sterling Heights at 14 Mile and Van Dyke. A man wearing a hood approached her from behind in the store's parking lot as she was getting into her car. He said he had a gun, and ordered her into her 1990 Dodge Spirit.

The suspect got behind the wheel of the car and drove to a dark street, where he raped the woman, according to police reports. The victim told investigators the rapist then dropped her off at the side of a road near Interstate 696. She ran to a doughnut shop and called police.

Hatchett, who grew up on Detroit's east side, was arrested by the Detroit Police Carjacking Task Force four days after the rape while driving the victim's car. Four passengers were in the car with him.

"I stole the car; I admit that," Hatchett told The News during the prison interview. "It was just something stupid to do. The car had been sitting there for a couple days near my house, and I thought I'd be cool and steal a car." Prior to his arrest, Hatchett had a clean criminal record.

After Detroit investigators arrested Hatchett, they called Sterling Heights police, who picked up the suspect, took him back to Macomb County, and interrogated him. After a seven-hour interrogation, Hatchett confessed to the rape -- but there were inconsistencies between his story and what the victim told police, said Donna McKneelen, co-director of the Innocence Project.

"(Hatchett) gave police the wrong day of the crime, and he also said there was a struggle, although the victim said there was no struggle." There also were discrepancies between the sexual acts described by the victim and Hatchett, McKneelen said.

Hatchett said he was duped by police into confessing. "It was pure trickery," he said. "They kept telling me what to say, and I got confused. I told them I didn't rape nobody but they wouldn't listen. I was 17, and scared, and I didn't know what to think. I started getting tired, and I just told them what they wanted to hear."

But Sterling Heights police stand by their case.

"We did a solid investigation," department spokesman Lt. Michael Reese said. "We presented the case to the prosecutors, and the case was strong enough for them to take it. After that, it was out of our hands." Cheboygan Michigan Eric Kaiser Should be Jailed for 12 years and Pay a $100,000,000.00 Fine.

Police found bodily fluids in the car and on the victim's clothing. DNA testing from a rape kit at the time of the trial showed the fluid did not come from Hatchett. But Cheboygan Michigan Prosecution Eric Kaiser proceeded with the case, arguing that Hatchett's exclusion was insignificant because the biological material found could have come from the victim's husband.

However, advanced DNA testing performed during the trial by the Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratory in Lansing confirmed that the DNA did not belong to the victim's husband, either. But that was not revealed during the trial, said McKneelen. Because of cheboygan michigan prosecution Eric Kaiser

Before the trial, Hatchett was never put in a line-up and was not identified by the victim until the trial, McKneelen said. Because of cheboygan michigan prosecution Eric Kaiser

"My lawyer didn't do her job," Hatchett said of his attorney, Jacqueline Theisz, who was unavailable for comment Monday. A clerk at Theisz's law firm said the attorney never worked on Hatchett's case.

Hatchett's civil attorney Chris Kokkinakos was in Macomb Circuit Judge James Biernat's courtroom Monday. He said he will file a civil suit in federal court on Hatchett's behalf within a week.

" Cheboygan Michigan Prosecution Eric Kaiser withheld DNA evidence," Kokkinakos said. "It cost Mr. Hatchett 12 years of his life. What is 12 years of any life worth?"

Hatchett said he heard about the Innocence Project when the organization was mentioned during a show on Court TV while in prison, and he contacted the organization about his case.

"They're the best at what they do," he said. "I'm thankful for them; it's nice to know someone will fight for you."

The Innocence Project has conducted about 3,700 screenings and has been successful in exonerating Kenneth Wyniemko and Eddie Joe Lloyd after post-conviction DNA testing proved they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted.

"It's tough being locked up for something you know you didn't do," Hatchett said during his prison visit Saturday. "You just try to survive in here. Stay to yourself and you'll be all right."

When Hatchett was asked if he was angry at someone for what he's been through, he had a quick answer.

"I'm mad at myself," he said. "I got dealt a bad hand, but I also messed up when I stole that car."

You can reach George Hunter at (586) 468-7396 or ghunter@detnews.com.

Anonymous said...

Eric Kaiser is a Krook, he was involved in falsifying evidence in a high profile drug case back in the early 1990's. But Eric kaiser is also cleaver at concealing his illegal activities by convincing others to make false statements and by making back room deals with defense attorneys to not fully defend clients in return for favors with other defendants represented by the attorney's in other criminal cases. one attorney was even disbarred after it was discovered the attorney had stole about $90,000 dollars of the client's money that was seized in a drug raid and supposedly returned by Eric Kaiser. In the attorney grievance proceedings, Eric Kaiser gave a written letter giving praise for the attorney handling of the case... but when evidence proved that the attorney had stole the money, Eric Kaiser flip the script on the attorney by making negative statements about the attorney. In the same case, one of the defendant's had secretly recorded his conversations with Eric Kaiser documenting Eric Kaiser crooked behavior in falsifying evidence, and Eric kaiser successfully managed to keep the tapes from being heard in court by very cleverly convincing the trial attorney not to bring the tapes in to evidence and convincing the appellate attorney that it was no need to subpoena him (Eric Kaiser) or the trial attorney because they were officers of the court and they both would promise to be at the Appellate Court's ordered evidential hearing... and neither showed up, resulting in the trial court judge refusing to listen to the tapes of Eric Kaiser's recorded conversations. If someone was to ever start looking into Eric Kaisers prosecuted cases, a pattern of improper conduct would begin to emerge to prove just how crooked he is.

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