News Hits continues to keep a close eye on developments in the case of Janice Williams, a Detroit resident murdered in 2002.
Williams’ killing was the subject of a Metro Times exposé (“Confessions & recantations,” Jan. 21, 2004), which raised questions about the Detroit Police Department’s handling of the case.
Thanks to Detroit P.D. Detective Derryck Thomas, questions keep cropping up.
Last month Thomas submitted a sworn affidavit to U.S. District Court claiming that city resident Terry Thompson, 49, passed a lie-detector test administered as part of the investigation.
That affidavit has us scratching our heads.
Last year, Metro Times interviewed Detective Thomas and asked why the police cleared Thompson of the murder. Thomas said that Thompson had passed a polygraph test. But he hadn’t. When Metro Times showed Thomas test results indicating that Thompson had in fact failed the polygraph administered by the Detroit Police, the detective said, “Oh yeah, he sure did.”
Despite this, Thomas signed an affidavit last month claiming that “Terry Thompson did, in fact, [submit] to a polygraph examination the results of which reflected no deception as to all relevant questions pertaining to the homicide; his response to questions regarding his wife and marijuana use indicated deception, however.”
But, according to the test results obtained by Metro Times, police never asked Thompson about his wife or marijuana use. Thompson was only asked questions about the murder, which included, “Do you know for sure who stabbed Janice Williams? Did you shoot or stab Janice Williams? Are you the one who shot or stabbed Janice Williams? Did you plan or participate with anyone to shoot or stab Janice?” Thompson answered “no” to each question. The polygraph examiner concluded, “Based upon the examination given, it is the opinion of the examiner that the subject is not being truthful regarding this issue.”
Yet Thomas’ affidavit contradicts the polygraph results. Thomas’ affidavit was filed in a lawsuit before U.S. District Court Judge Paul D. Borman over Williams’ life insurance proceeds, which were to be split between her three children. But a lawsuit filed on behalf of her two daughters claims their brother, Antoine Morris, should not receive his share because he allegedly helped kill Williams; about $81,000 is in dispute.
Morris was subjected to 11 hours of interrogation over a two-day period, without a lawyer present at all and without a parent for much of the time. He eventually confessed to helping friend Vidale McDowell kill Williams. But Morris almost immediately recanted his confession, saying it was coerced, and insisted that McDowell played no part in the killing.
Judge Ulysses Boykin allowed prosecutors to admit the confession without ever calling Morris to testify at trial. Morris’ statement was read to the jurors, who convicted the then-18-year-old McDowell. He was sentenced to prison for life. Morris received probation. 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 at McDowell’s trial and will not fight the appeal. The prosecutor’s office has not decided if it will retry McDowell.
But we’re left to wonder why Detective Thomas would once again claim that Thompson had passed his polygraph.
“It’s in court and I can’t comment on it,” said Thomas when we posed that question to him.
So we called Tara Dunlop, director of communication for the Detroit Police Department. We’re still waiting to hear back from her.
Attorney Jeffery Taylor, who represented McDowell in the murder trial, says he is not surprised that Thomas’ affidavit appears to contain false information.
“This case has more troubling aspects to it than one would ever expect to see in a criminal case as serious as this,” says Taylor. “But given what has already happened, this does not surprise me.”Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]