LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Sarah S. Lincoln has signed an order setting aside the 1988 conviction of a man from Albion for a sex crime and breaking and entering.
Louis Wright, 65, was sentenced to 25 to 50 years for each of the sexual assault charges and 6 to 15 years for breaking and entering for an incident in 1988.
But 35 years later, the Attorney General Conviction Integrity Unit recovered DNA evidence from the rape kit, and that evidence eliminated Wright as a suspect.
Wright had been in the Michigan Department of Corrections since October 1988. He was released on bond on Nov. 2 this year from Central Michigan Correctional Facility.
“I commend the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for agreeing to the DNA testing that led to Mr. Wright’s exoneration. Without their willingness to test the rape kit evidence, Mr. Wright may never have received justice,” said Marla Mitchell-Cichon, Director of the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project. The organization had pushed for a review of the case on Wright’s behalf.
Wright, 65, was convicted of sexual assault and criminal sexual conduct in the case from January 18, 1988, in Albion. That night, an 11-year-old girl was asleep at her Albion home. A single perpetrator broke into the home, forced the young girl into the living room, and sexually assaulted her.
Wright was identified by an off-duty Albion Police Officer who lived one block from the victim and approximately a half mile from Wright. The officer alleged he saw Wright in front of his own home about five hours before the offense occurred.
The officer took Wright to the police station and interviewed him. The officer later claimed Wright had confessed. As a result, Wright was charged. He entered a no-contest plea, which is not considered an admission of guilt but is treated as if the person was guilty for sentencing purposes. He attempted to revoke his plea before sentence, but that was denied.
He has consistently maintained his innocence ever since, according to a press release from the Office of the Attorney General.
“The exoneration of Mr. Wright highlights the importance of collaboration between multiple agencies,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a press statement. “The tireless work put in to secure this exoneration is another source of great pride for our Conviction Integrity Unit. When I established the CIU in 2019, I envisioned our office working side-by-side with local prosecutors and police departments to uncover the truth. I commend the attorneys and investigators in my office, the local agencies, and the WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project for their hard work.”
In the same statement, David Gilbert, Calhoun County Prosecutor, said the set aside of the conviction will lead to a new investigation.
“There is no justice without truth. It applies to everyone. This case is being reopened and further investigation will be had to determine who the perpetrator is. We thank the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, Michigan State Police and the Albion Department of Public Safety for their investigative assistance.”