Robbery of Plymouth woman on docket at Mich. Supreme Court
Nov. 6, 2013 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
A furnace repairman in prison nearly 20 years for armed robbery is getting his day at the Michigan Supreme Court.
William Garrett’s case has bounced many times up and down the state’s court system. He was convicted in 1995 of armed robbery after an 86-year-old Plymouth woman identified him as the man who cleaned her furnace and returned a few days later to rob her.
But the fruits of the robbery were never found on Garrett, and tire tracks at the victim’s home didn’t match his vehicle. Garrett says his lawyer failed to call a key alibi witness. The victim also had memory problems.
Garrett wants a new trial. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday and will consider whether Garrett has demonstrated a significant possibility of actual innocence.
(Lansing, Mich. (Associated Press)
William Craig Garrett was convicted of armed robbery after a five-day jury trial before the Honorable Isidore Torres in October, 1995 and was sentenced, as a fourth habitual offender, to 15 to 30 years imprisonment on Nov. 2 of that year.
The victim of the robbery, then 86-year-old Plymouth resident Eleanore Neault, identified her assailant as the furnace man who visited her home several days earlier. There is no dispute that Garrett did visit Neault’s home to clean her furnace four days before the robbery. The police arrested him on the strength of Neault’s identification, although they did not find any of the proceeds of the robbery in his possession. Garrett did not testify at trial, but he presented alibi witnesses who testified as to his whereabouts during the afternoon of the robbery. Two witnesses placed Garrett at the home of Joseph Benke at the time of the robbery.
After he was convicted, Garrett learned that Neault was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia shortly after trial. Garrett also passed a polygraph examination, as did Joseph Benke, who was not called to testify at trial, but who confirmed the testimony of the alibi witnesses who said that Garrett was at Benke’s home at the time of the robbery.
Detroit attorneys for the Innocence Network brought the case forward. The Innocence Network is an international affiliation of more than 70 different organizations in 47 states and seven countries dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrong convictions. In 2012, the work of Innocence Network member organizations led to the exoneration of 22 people around the world, including two in Michigan. These innocent people served a combined 279 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit.
According to Garrett’s Brief on Appeal, filed this October by the law firm, Foley and Lardner, Garrett was charged and convicted of one count of armed robbery after a jury trial. There was no physical evidence link in Garrett to the robbery, and the prosecution’s case rested almost entirely on the identification testimony of the complainant.
After trial, it emerged that the complainant suffered from significant cognitive impairments prior to the time of the alleged robbery, and continuing through the time of her testimony at Garrett’s trial. Medical evidence produced after trial showed that the complainant has a “waxing and waning mental status” and memory at both the time of the incident and the time of trial. In addition, after trail, both Garrett and a witness who testified to his alibi defense pass polygraph examinations verifying their states that Garrett did not commit the robbery. Another alibi witness who did not testify at the trial also passed polygraph examination verifying Garrett’s alibi defense.
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