Man Wrongfully Incarcerated For 34 Years Released, Has Sentence Vacated
A Detroit man, Darrell Siggers, was released from prison after 34 years of a wrongful conviction. 54-year-old Siggers was incarcerated at the Wayne County Jail for a 1984 murder he always maintained he never committed. A jury convicted Siggers for the shooting death of James Montgomery largely on ballistics evidence that has since been proven erroneous.
The jury convicted Siggers, who was only 20 at the time, based on the testimony of Detroit Police Sgt. Claude Houseworth. Houseworth claimed that the bullets extracted from Montgomery’s slain body and the ones found at the scene of the crime as well as those recovered from the defendant’s home were from the same gun. The murder weapon itself was never found.
Michael Waldo, Siggers’ most recent lawyer (he has had 16 lawyers over the year), hired ballistic experts to examine Houseworth’s testimony and who determined that Houseworth’s conclusions were wrong and inaccurate.
“In 2015, Mr. David Townshend, a retired Michigan State Trooper with more than 20 years of experience in the Michigan State Police Crime Laboratory Firearms Identification Unit, conducted an independent review. Mr. Townshend determined that Sgt. Houseworth’s conclusions were ‘erroneous,’ ‘unbelievable’ and ‘highly improbable,’” said Waldo in a court document.
David Balash, a retired Michigan State Police firearms examiner, called Houseworth’s testimony “both confusing and at times totally inaccurate.”
The Detroit Police crime lab that processed the original firearm evidence was closed in 2008 after a State Police audit found that many of the ballistic cases it handled were highly flawed. New testing of the firearm and ballistics evidence could not be conducted because the state destroyed the evidence in 2003.
Prosecutors agreed to vacate Siggers conviction in light of the new assessment of the ballistics evidence. Wayne County Circuit Judge Shannon Walker set Siggers free but placed an electronic monitor on him to track his movements. He will have to be re-tried, starting December 3.
After 34 years in jail Siggers says he nurses no anger toward anyone and will enroll in college to add to the associate degree he obtained in prison. For the moment, he is staying with his daughter and getting to know his family better.
“Being in prison for 34 years for something that you didn’t do, and then to be free … it’s just an awesome moment,” Siggers told Free Press.