Lansing State Journal

October 24, 2007

Charges against McCollum dismissed

Kevin Grasha and Christine Rook
Lansing State Journal


UPDATED at 4:25 p.m. -- Ingham County Circuit Judge James Giddings today dismissed murder and rape charges against Claude McCollum.

That decision came after prosecutors today asked that the charges be dismissed.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said at a news conference this afternoon, "It's horrible for an innocent man to be convicted."

Asked what he would say to McCollum, Dunnings said, "I wish him well. And I sincerely mean that."

“The prosecutor’s office has finally awakened, and this man’s problem has come to an end,” McCollum’s attorney, Hugh Clarke Jr., said minutes after learning about the dismissal.
Claude McCollum and Attorney Hugh Clarke, Jr.
(Photo by ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal file photo)
Claude McCollum (L) and his attorney, Hugh Clarke, Jr., at Oct. 22 hearing

Claude McCollum is with Clarke at his downtown office. Clarke is planning an afternoon press conference.
06 Attorney:  "I did not see report."

"This is a great day," said LaRon McCollum, a brother of Claude McCollum.

He was all smiles as he fed the parking meter outside Clarke's office before going to the news conference.

Giddings, who last year sentenced McCollum to life in prison, said Monday that there was “powerful evidence” he was not involved in the 2005 rape and killing of a Lansing Community College professor.

McCollum, a drifter with no fixed address, was taking classes at LCC at the time of the homicide. Police focused on him soon after Kronenberg was killed. DNA evidence found at the scene did not match McCollum, and there were no conclusive fingerprints or eyewitnesses. One strand of fiber found on his clothing may have come from Kronenberg’s sweater, an expert testified at his trial.

The Michigan Court of Appeals last month threw out McCollum’s conviction at Dunnings request. He was released on bond last week.

McCollum, 30, served 1½ years in prison until his Oct. 16 release on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond.

Another man has since confessed to the crime, according to Michigan State Police, and new video evidence shows that McCollum couldn’t have committed the crime.

McCollum: "This nightmare is over"

Statement from Claude McCollum upon learning of the dismissal of murder and rape charges:

"The dismissal of the charges against me by the prosecutor's office is long overdue. While I am glad this nightmare is over, it should never have happened and I hope it never happens to anyone else.

"The fact that 10 months before the trial they had a report that said I could not have committed this crime should have signaled the people handling this case to reopen this investigation. But they did not.
Defense attorney Lee Taylor, who represented Claude McCollum at his 2006 murder trial, said Monday he never received a 2005 report by a Michigan State Police detective that said McCollum couldn't have killed a Lansing Community College professor.

"I did not get a copy of (the report) until it was given to me in October of this year. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I'd never seen it before," Taylor said in his first media interview since the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out McCollum's murder conviction and granted him a new trial.

Michigan court rules, which are adopted by the state Supreme Court, say that prosecutors must provide evidence to defense attorneys that could show a defendant is innocent.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said attorneys from his office told him they forwarded the report to Taylor.

The issue raised by Taylor "is one of the reasons I've asked for an investigation," said Dunnings, who on Friday asked the state attorney general's office to look into the handling of video surveillance evidence in the case.

The 2005 report, by Detective Sgt. James Young, says McCollum is seen on surveillance cameras elsewhere on LCC's campus at the time 60-year-old Carolyn Kronenberg was sexually assaulted and killed, according to attorneys who have seen it.

Taylor said there also should be a federal investigation into the prosecution's handling of the case. "I think there's a violation of this young man's civil rights, as well," he said.
"They choose to continue my detention and imprisonment until they had no choice because the truth was about to come out. The prosecutors wants to make themselves look good with this error. But they cannot even call me or my lawyer to say 'I am sorry this happened.'

"I was innocent then and I am innocent now. Who gives me back the time I spent in jail and later in prison?

"I want to thank Hugh Clarke for advocating for me. If he did not, on Monday I would be on a tether at an initial cost of $1,100 to the county.

"If the judge had put me on a tether I do not believe the case would have been dismissed this soon."


Exonerations
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice