Man gets re-trial, released after serving 34 years

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit man has been released from state prison after serving more than three decades for a murder he says he didn't commit.

Darrell Siggers, 54, was released from the William Dickerson Detention Facility last Friday. Siggers was sentenced to life in prison for the death of James Montgomery. He's getting a new trial because ballistics evidence and witness testimony during his 1984 trial has since been disputed.

"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 the Detroit Free Press. "I feel wonderful."

Siggers has maintained that he was wrongfully convicted for decades. He told WXYZ-TV that he's always had faith in the system and believed it could work.

Years of appeals led to new evidence being brought forward and witnesses being discredited, according to Siggers' attorney Wolf Mueller.

Detroit Police Sgt. Claude Houseworth had testified in Siggers' trial that bullets recovered from the victim, the crime scene and Siggers' home were fired from the same gun, according to court documents. The weapon was never recovered. The ballistics evidence was destroyed by Detroit police in 2003, so it cannot be further tested.

But a ballistic expert found in 2015 that "Sgt. Houseworth's conclusions were 'erroneous,' 'unbelievable' and 'highly improbable,'" said Michael Waldo, Siggers' attorney with the Michigan State Appellate Defender Office.

"I don't know how (prosecutors) would resurrect a 34-year-old case at this point," Mueller said. "Every bullet expert who has looked at this testimony said it was garbage."

Siggers spent much of his time incarcerated educating himself in the law library on the criminal justice system, he said.

"Here's a guy laser-focused on getting himself out, understanding the system and writing his own legal briefs," Mueller said. "This is an incredible person."

Siggers' re-trial is scheduled for December. Until then, he plans to spend time with his family and take college classes to expand on the associate degree he earned behind bars.

Published: Thu, Aug 16, 2018