Dwayne Provience spent a decade in a Detroit prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Now Provience, a free man, is due $5 million in damages from a lawsuit he filed against the city. The only problem is that the city is broke.
Detroit is now the largest U.S. city to enter bankruptcy, which is bad timing for Provience, who is a victim of circumstance once again.
Imran J. Syed, a fellow for the Michigan Innocence Project, which was responsible for Provience’s eventual release, wrote about the ongoing battle for justice on Slate.
Provience had two children, a good job, and a house 14 years ago, at 26 years old, when a series of negligent actions by the police and his defense team led to his conviction in the murder of local drug dealer Rene Hunter.
Hunter was killed in broad daylight by a shooter in a car. Seven witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, saw the car. Police were able to come up with a likely list of suspects through their investigation. Two neighborhood drug bosses, The Mosley brothers, had a strong motive, believing that Hunter had stolen a shipment of their drugs. The brothers owned a car that matched the witnesses’ description, and had apparently confronted Hunter in the intersection where he was shot.
However, the police were able to get Larry Wiley, a homeless crack addict, to issue a statement saying that Provience had committed the murder, in exchange for letting Wiley go free for a breaking and entering charge.
Provience’s lawyer, who later had his license revoked, never called any of the witnesses to the stand. Provience was sentenced to 32 to 62 years behind bars.
Thanks to hours of work by students at the Innocence Project, Provience was freed in 2009 after a retrial with new evidence, including a statement from Wiley saying that he had lied. Provience then sued the city for false arrest and malicious prosecution. A mediation panel recommended a settlement of $5 million.
"Nine and a half years is hell on Earth, especially if you haven’t done nothing to be there in the first place,” Provience told WDIV.
Now Provience, reunited with his family, is working as a personal trainer and rehabilitation specialist. He plans to enroll in college in January. But he has his children’s college tuition to pay, plus a huge child support debt to pay off from the time he was in prison.
"He’s lumped in as a creditor," said Provience’s lawyer, Wolf Mueller. “But he’s not the person who sold pencils to City Hall and didn’t get paid."
The only possibility of Provience receiving his settlement is if his lawyer can convince the city’s creditors to make an exemption for Provience, considering the gross injustice the city was responsible for bringing against him.
“I want to open up my own physical therapy place and be my own boss,” Provience said of his plans. “I’ve had too much of people telling me what to do.”