Kylleen Hargrave-Thomas has waited nine years for the chance to prove her claim that she’s innocent in the 1991 murder of her then-boyfriend Manuel Joseph Bernal. She’s serving life without possibility for parole. On May 21, less than a month after the Metro Times reported her story, a federal judge granted her that chance.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gadola granted Hargrave-Thomas’ attorneys the right to discovery, an opportunity those attorneys say she’s never had, since her original trial counsel, Rene Cooper, conducted no investigation in the case and called no witnesses.
Lawyers Andrea Lyon, now the director of a capital crimes law clinic at Chicago’s DePaul University, and Bridget McCormack, of the University of Michigan law clinic, say Hargrave-Thomas is in prison because police failed to investigate other obvious suspects and withheld evidence that could have contributed to her defense.
Gadola ordered Westland Police and Michigan State Police laboratory scientists to turn over notes and evidence Lyon said was never released to Hargrave-Thomas’ trial attorney. That includes information about other possible suspects and any personnel records that may indicate the investigating officers had histories of making false arrests or being disciplined for their methods of investigation.
Representatives from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office were not immediately available for comment. Lawyers for Hargrave-Thomas, however, were elated.
“It’s great news. It’s huge,” Lyon said.
“Discovery is very, very seldom given in a proceeding like this,” the attorney added. “You have to raise significant constitutional issues. We see this as very encouraging and helpful.”
According to Lyon, Hargrave-Thomas, 49, was heartened by the decision.
“She is so excited and encouraged and hopeful,” said Lyon. “We hope to get her home sometime soon.”
News Hits has also learned that the case may be getting even more attention. The Metro Times article by Katie Merx apparently caught the attention of producers of news programs at both CBS and ABC, which, we hear, are now looking into the case. Stay tuned.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail [email protected]