Detroit man, 35, was set for prison release — until officer brought hearing to halt

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A man, 35, was set to be released after 15 years of wrongful imprisonment Friday but a Wayne County judge delayed the exoneration because she was approached by a Detroit officer who claims to have further information.

In a hearing Friday, Terance Calhoun was moments from being cleared of his supposed crimes and having his 2007 case dismissed when Judge Kelly Ramsey said the hearing had to be adjourned. She said she was approached by Detroit Police Officer Robert Kane, who had a binder of information that he believed to be relevant to the case and the release of Calhoun.

Kane testified at Calhoun's preliminary examination in November 2006.

In 2007, Calhoun was charged with multiple crimes in two separate cases involving the rape of a 13-year-old girl and attempted sexual assault of another girl, 15, to which he pleaded no contest. He was sentenced to a minimum of 17 years. However, a rape kit rediscovered in 2019 excluded him from being the perpetrator.

This evidence discovered by officials led the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office's Conviction Integrity Unit to ask a judge Friday afternoon to dismiss the case and clear Calhoun of the convictions. But the request will now be delayed pending a review of the materials brought forward by Kane.

"It is my belief that it is my role and responsibility to ensure the court's role is to ensure that justice is done and the court is also mindful of the need to ensure finality in its orders," Ramsey said during the hearing. "Given the circumstances before this court, there needs to be an opportunity, due diligence that exceeds whatever happened this morning to whenever Mr. Kane hopefully went to the prosecutor's office."

Ramsey said Kane met her in her courtroom Friday morning and he presented her with a binder and said: "Judge, you've got to look at this before you dismiss this case, you have to look at this evidence here." Ramsey said she referred him to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and did not review any of the documents he brought to her.

In a statement Friday evening, the State Appellate Defender Office said the information Kane presented to Ramsey was not new and had already been thoroughly investigated.

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"I just want to acknowledge how hard this has been, Mr. Calhoun, and I certainly do not want to continue this, but this is the decision of this court today," Ramsey said during the hearing. "I don't know what Robert Kane has to share, but I certainly think that it's worth commenting that an officer came here this morning and wanted to show me something. I don't know the solidity of that information. But what I do think is that whether or not this information that the officer may or may not have cannot be disregarded to ensure that we arrive at an accurate conclusion."

A statement to the Free Press from the Detroit Police Department on Friday afternoon said that the department values its relationship with the county prosecutor's office.

"The events that unfolded in court today in the People v. Terance Calhoun matter were outside of the Detroit Police Department policy and are not how the administration expects our investigators to act," the statement reads. "The officer did not adhere to our policy or procedures to prevent such a situation. We have been in communication with the Prosecutor’s Office and are working to rectify the situation."

DPD did not respond to Free Press inquiries regarding Kane's history on the force and his current role.

Both the prosecutor's office, represented by Valerie Newman, director of the Conviction Integrity Unit, and Calhoun's attorney Michael Mittlestat, assistant defender with the State Appellate Defender Office, expressed their disbelief toward the situation. Newman said the move was highly inappropriate for the Detroit Police Department to go behind the prosecutor's back and straight to the judge.

"I just want to apologize to Mr. Calhoun and his family who traveled in from out of state to be here today to assist him and to all the defense attorneys because it just happened this morning," Newman said. "I had been diligently trying to deal with this by contacting the Detroit Police Department chief himself because this is so highly inappropriate. It has never happened before. And to me, I just have to say it is absolutely outrageous conduct on behalf of this police officer."

In 2007, Calhoun was sentenced to first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, felony firearms and attempted kidnapping. He could be eligible for $50,000 from the state for every year spent in prison based on a wrongful conviction.

Mittlestat said Calhoun's family was absolutely devastated and some traveled in from Tennessee to see him walk free out of the Woodland Correctional Facility. The defense and county prosecutor hold to the fact that the conviction should be vacated, he said.

"The bottom line is is we have a DNA exoneration here," Mittlestat said, adding that he believes the binder from Kane will not present any new information on the case.

In a statement, SADO insisted that Calhoun is innocent.

"DNA testing exonerates him and instead points to a suspected serial rapist," the statement reads. "Mr. Calhoun should have been freed today. Instead, because a police officer acting alone with no authority could not face the facts, Mr. Calhoun remains wrongfully incarcerated, which is unconscionable."

Another exoneration hearing for Calhoun is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact Miriam Marini: mmarini@freepress.com.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit police officer causes hearing delay for man set to be freed