Passing a polygraph

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For more than two years Antoine Morris has maintained that he and Vidale McDowell didn’t murder Morris’ mother. Now, Morris has polygraph test results to back him up.

"It is my opinion, based upon an analysis of the polygrams from Mr. Morris, that he is being truthful" when he says he did not kill his mother and does not know who did, reports H. John Wojnaroski III who administered the polygraph.

Morris was 13 when his mother, Janice Williams, was shot to death at their Detroit home in January 2002.

On the night of the murder, Morris denied having any knowledge of the crime. About a month later, Detroit police interrogated Morris for about 11 hours over two days. On the second day of the interrogation, Detroit officer Andrew Sims was set to administer a polygraph to Morris, but never did. Instead, Sims obtained a confession from Morris, who also implicated McDowell.

Morris almost immediately recanted the statement, however, saying it was coerced.

Despite that, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Ulysses Boykin allowed prosecutors to admit the confession without having Morris testify at trial. The confession was read to jurors; McDowell’s attorney was never able to cross-examine Morris. The jury convicted the then-18-year-old McDowell and he was sent to prison for life. Morris, charged with being an accessory after the fact, received probation.

Williams’ murder was the subject of a Metro Times exposé (“Confessions & recantations,” Jan. 21, 2004) that raised questions about Morris’ confession and the Detroit Police Department’s handling of the case.

Last month, Morris was asked to take a polygraph as part of a dispute over his mother’s life insurance, worth about $80,000. The money is supposed to be split among Williams’ three children. But the attorney for Jazzane Hudgens, Williams’ youngest child, contends Morris isn’t entitled to any of the money since he allegedly helped kill his mother.

To help settle the dispute, Morris agreed to a request by Hudgens’ attorney that he take a polygraph.

“That was the test that [Detroit police officer] Sims should have given him,” says attorney William Ford, who represents Morris and maintains that his client and McDowell were railroaded by police investigators.

Morris says he hopes the polygraph test helps free his friend, McDowell, from jail.

“I’m just hoping my godbrother gets out and they find the right person,” says Morris.

If McDowell and Morris are not the killers, as Morris insists, then who murdered Williams? The night she was killed police asked Morris if he knew of anyone who would want to harm his mother, and he suggested Williams’ ex-husband, George Steele Hudgens, who lived next door, according to a police report. Morris said the two fought over the custody of their daughter, Jazzane, and Hudgens had threatened to kill Williams. Williams’s daughter, Markita Williams, also told police that Hudgens and her mother fought.

Hudgens told police he was with another woman the night of the murder. Hudgens told Metro Times that he and Williams did not fight and that the custody battle over their daughter had been settled before her death.

But News Hits learned this week that the custody battle was far from resolved.

“There was always friction,” says attorney Rodrick Green, appointed Jazzane’s guardian ad litum by the court to resolve visitation disputes. “That’s why I was involved. They couldn’t resolve it.”

Green says the couple may have had joint custody on paper, but he was to monitor them and ensure each “got their fair share” of time with Jazzane.

Attorney Donald Mbamah, who represented Williams, told Metro Times this week that Williams wanted full custody of her daughter.

Mbamah says he was on the “verge” of filing a motion for Williams that sought full custody. But he says days before their next appointment, Williams was murdered.

Mbamah says he does not know if Hudgens was aware of Williams’ plans.

Hudgens told News Hits he did not have time to talk and hung up; his attorney could not be reached for comment.

The police also questioned Terry Thompson, who was in the house the night Williams was killed. Though Thompson failed a polygraph test and had gunpowder residue in his car, police cleared him of the murder, but have given no explanation why.

Police questioned a third man, Jasper Lorenzo Holloman, because Williams’ daughter said Holloman and her mother had dated, and quarreled. Holloman told police he was home in bed the night of the murder, according to police reports.

Vidale McDowell had no prior record. His father testified at trial that his son was home in bed the night of the murder.

In February, McDowell appealed his murder conviction, arguing that the prosecution should not have been allowed to admit Morris’ confession because it violated his Sixth Amendment right, which allows him to confront his accuser. Earlier this month, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office conceded that Morris’ confession should not have been admitted, and that it will not fight the appeal. The prosecutor’s office has not decided if it will retry McDowell. If he is retried, Morris’ polygraph test would not be admissible.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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