DETROIT (AP) — Two brothers who spent 25 years in prison for a killing they insist they didn't commit walked out of a Detroit courthouse as free men on Thursday.
Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon formally dismissed the murder charges against Raymond and Thomas Highers a day after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced she didn't plan to retry the men for the 1987 slaying of 65-year-old Robert Karey.
The brothers and the dozen or so family and friends in attendance abided by a request from defense lawyer Valerie Newman not to "hoot and holler" in the courtroom. "There'll be lots and lots of time to celebrate," she told them.
Celebrate they did, once they poured out of the building. Thomas Highers, 48, walked down the courthouse steps and gave his uncle a bear hug while cheers rang out. Asked what he planned to do next, Highers smiled and said: "Life."
"We're going to do and see things we haven't been able to in many, many years," he said. Raymond Highers, 47, said he was looking forward to a nice dinner at home with his loved ones. He said he plans to travel to Kentucky to honor his late father's wish of having his ashes spread in that state.
Talon ordered a new trial for the brothers last year and let them out on bond after new witness testimony suggested they may have been misidentified in the slaying. Since getting out of prison, both brothers have found jobs, their attorney Gabi Silver said.
Worthy appealed the ruling, but lost. The case had been scheduled for trial early next month, but Worthy decided against going forward. In requesting that the case be dismissed, assistant prosecutor Michael Reynolds told Talon on Thursday that some witnesses have died and others' memories have faded. Plus, he said, some physical evidence has not been located.
Talon accepted the explanation and dismissed the charges without prejudice, which means prosecutors could decide to charge the brothers again someday. "I wish them good luck with their lives," the judge said.
The brothers were convicted by a judge in 1988 of fatally shooting Karey at his home near City Airport. Talon threw out the brothers' first-degree murder convictions based on new testimony from witnesses who didn't come forward at the time.
The witnesses, former Grosse Pointe school friends, claimed they went to the house to buy marijuana. One of them, John Hielscher, has said he saw the attackers at the drug house and they were black. The Highers are white.
Hielscher said he was scared to say anything at the time and that two decades passed before he learned that the Highers had been convicted.