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Michigan man cleared of sexual assault after 35 years in prison

Authorities agree that Louis Wright was wrongly convicted. They’re convinced after DNA testing excluded him as the perpetrator

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Detroit on Oct. 14, 2021.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Detroit on Oct. 14, 2021.Max Ortiz (AP)

A man accused of breaking into a home and sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in southwestern Michigan is out of prison after 35 years after authorities agreed that he was wrongly convicted.

Louis Wright’s convictions from 1988 were set aside by a judge Thursday at the request of the Calhoun County prosecutor and the attorney general’s office. “New DNA testing excluded Mr. Wright as the perpetrator,” the attorney general’s office said.

The Cooley Law School Innocence Project, which represents Wright, said a false confession and a no-contest plea caused his decades of incarceration.

In 1988, police investigating the assault of a girl in Albion, 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Detroit, settled on Wright as the suspect after an off-duty officer said he had been seen in the neighborhood.

Police said Wright confessed, though the interview was not recorded and he did not sign a confession, according to the Innocence Project.

“The victim was never asked to identify anyone in or outside of court,” the Innocence Project said.

Wright, now 65, eventually pleaded no-contest to the charges and was sentenced to 25 years to 50 years in prison. He subsequently sought to withdraw his plea, but the request was denied.

An email seeking additional comment from the Innocence Project wasn’t immediately answered Friday. It’s unclear why Wright decided to plead no-contest, which is treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.

“Mr. Wright has always maintained his innocence,” the Innocence Project said in a written statement.

Prosecutor David Gilbert said the case is being reopened.

“There is no justice without truth. It applies to everyone,” he said.

Wright could be eligible for $1.75 million under a state law that grants $50,000 for each year spent in prison for a conviction overturned based on new evidence.

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