Michigan Man’s Sketchy Conviction May Be Test Case For State’s CIU
Temujin Kensu is an odd guy. He changes his name a lot and has a bit of an angry streak. But he was convicted for a murder without a lot of evidence. Now his case may be reviewed.
Kensu, whose given name was Fred Freeman, has spent 34 years behind bars in Michigan for a 1986 murder he claims he didn't commit. And now, he may get another chance.
According to NBC News, Kensu, who changed his name because he says he is training to be a ninja, is now a possible early test case for Michigan's Conviction Integrity Unit, which has started reexamining old cases.
The fairly new unit (it was established in 2019), has yet to test the authority of local prosecutors, Kensu's would be the first:
...While county prosecutors have clear jurisdiction to move to vacate their own convictions, it’s unclear whether Michigan’s attorney general, considered the state’s highest-ranking lawyer and law enforcement official, has the power to vacate local convictions on her own. In the case of a stalemate, courts may ultimately have to serve as the final arbiter.
“Our office hopes to not have any conflicts with local prosecutors and in the event that we do, we will consider next steps if or when we encounter such a situation,” said Covington Watkins of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
Over 100 cases have been taken on by the CIU so far, with the pandemic slowing down some of the testing procedures.
For those who do not recall the controversial case, it involved the murder of Scott Macklem, who was felled by shotgun blast in Port Huron, on the campus of St. Clair Community College on November 6, 1986.
Macklem was dating Kensu's ex-girlfriend, Crystal Merrill. Merrill had testified that Kensu was violent, and had threatened both her and Macklem.
The problem was Kensu resided in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula at the time, 400 miles away, and two people said they saw him in town that day. One person testifying they saw him at 1:30am, the other said they saw him just after 12 noon.
That would have required Kensu to travel over 400 miles, kill Macklem, and then get back to Escanaba, all in a 10 and a half hour time frame, which was impossible if he drove.
Here's where it gets kind of sketchy. The prosecution in the case put up the theory that Kensu rented a plane to cover the distance with plenty of time to spare. However there was zero evidence he did so. There were absolutely no records of planes being rented or charter pilots hired in Escanaba or vicinity.
The prosecution then forwarded the theory that Kensu rented a plane and paid a pilot to not to leave any record of the flight. They backed that up with jailhouse testimony of cell mate of Kensu's who said he admitted killing Macklem to him.
“There were really large red flags in the case against Freeman,” Kensu's lawyer, Imran Syed told NBC. “But they just trudged forward, undeterred, because they had some really undying belief that he’s the guy who did it.”
That was enough for a jury to convict him. He has been turned down several times for parole, pardon or clemency, including a rejection for clemency by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in January.
No doubt, Kensu is an odd duck, he went by several different names, told people he was in the Japanese mafia, and had a short temper. But does that make him a murderer?
Many true crime podcasts, TV shows and web sites have taken up Kensu's cause, but so far to no avail. it is important to note that Merrill has no doubt Kensu either killed or had Macklem killed, telling NBC "After thirty-four years, I am still 100% positive that Freeman killed Scott as he had threatened to do so often, along with my family."
Below is a prison interview with Kensu, and here's a link to a full hour long documentary on the case.
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