OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. — For nearly 16 years, daily, sometimes multiple times every day, Kenneth Nixon thought about his innocence.
At just 19 years old, he was convicted of murder, attempted murder and arson after a Molotov cocktail thrown into a Detroit house killed two kids and injured family members back in 2005.
Nixon received two life sentences plus 30 to 60 years for the crime he always said he didn’t commit.
“I had no knowledge that the crime had even taken place until the investigating detectives told me. I didn't even know that this crime had happened,” Nixon told WXMI about the crime that happened just a few blocks from his house at the time.
About four years ago, the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit and the WMU-Cooley Law Innocence Project looked into Nixon’s case.
“The (13-year-old’s) witness testimony was inconsistent at the trial. The jailhouse informant was used to buttress the inconsistent witness. He was offered time off of his own sentence for testimony in this case and another case,” explained Nixon’s attorney David Williams with the Innocence Project.
Williams said the jailhouse informant eventually admitted that he had gained knowledge about Nixon’s case through news coverage, and recently a judge dropped the charges against Nixon, who explained to WXMI how he learned of his freedom.
“As soon as I picked up the phone, he says, ‘I got good news.’ My heart kind of sank. I’m like, ‘Okay, what is it?’ And he’s like, ‘It’s official; you’re going home.’ And I just couldn’t breathe for a minute. In my head, I was screaming, but in reality it wasn’t coming out.”
Nixon was released from the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia on Feb. 18 and explained to WXMI what he’s been doing, both immediately after his release and in the days since.
“The first thing I did was eat some real food. We stopped at the nearest fast-food restaurant. I needed some real hamburgers and french fries in my life. McDonald's was the first stop; that was the first thing that I saw leaving. I've really been spending my time just enjoying the moment, you know, catching up with family and learning my kids. It's been 15 years. These guys were toddlers, infants when I left. Now my youngest son is being recruited by college football teams, and my oldest son is replacing the motor in his car right now as we speak. So that's a big difference from when I left; these guys were walking around in diapers.”
Nixon is looking to go back to school, something he was trying to do before he went to prison. Now he may look into the legal field, telling WXMI he wants to see more changes happen. He is also speaking with attorneys about compensation from the state for his unlawful imprisonment.
Nixon’s case marks the WMU-Cooley Law Innocence Project’s fifth exoneration since 2003.
This story was originally published by Derek Francis at WXMI.