Man Wrongly Convicted Of Detroit Murders Released After 27 Years

DETROIT (WWJ) - "Mr. Ward served over half of his life in prison for crimes he did not commit," says Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. 

A 44-year-old Detroit man who was wrongly convicted of murdering two women more than two decades ago has been set free.

Ramon Lamar Ward was 18 years old when he charged in the shooting deaths of Sharon Cornell and Joan Gilliam on the night of Jan. 21, 1994, in a vacant drug house on Moran Street in Detroit.

A Wayne County Jury found him guilty of first and second degree murder despite the fact, prosecutors say, that the original police investigation identified no eyewitnesses and there was no physical evidence that linked Ward to the killings. 

Now, after Ward served nearly 27 years behind bars, an investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit found other evidence showed conclusively that Ward did not commit the crimes.

On Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Valerie Newman, Director of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, joined by Ward’s attorney John Smietanka, motioned to have Ward's convictions dismissed and vacated.

The motion was granted by Judge Donald L. Knapp of the Wayne County Circuit Court.

"This is a classic example of why the CIU exists,"  Worthy said, in a statement. "His case was disturbing on several levels, and our intensive investigation showed that he is certainly entitled to the relief we requested today. We remain committed to thoroughly reviewing all CIU cases and will support Mr. Ward’s anticipated state claim for relief under the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act."

Although Ward declined to speak publicly following his release on Thursday, his attorney spoke with reporters as Ward enjoyed a celebratory meal downtown. 

Smietanka told WWJ's Jon Hewett that justice delayed has finally been served. 

"He was wrongfully convicted; an actually innocent man," Smietanka said. "He's now coming out, and in his 40s, trying to put his life back together. Not even put it together — start a life, because at 18 you're a different person then when you're 44." 

Smietanka said his client will pursue compensation.