Innocence Clinic taking on case involving murdered hunters

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A Kalamazoo County man has been behind bars for 12 years for a crime some say he never committed.

Now a team of retired detectives and lawyers is fighting to free him.

A motion was filed Tuesday morning asking for a new trial for Jeff Titus.

Michigan Innocence Clinic, based in Ann Arbor, took on the case back in 2011, saying it took three years to get everything in place.

The group says a document that's dozens of pages long spells out exactly why Titus is entitled to a new trial.

This case dates back to November 1990 when two hunters were shot and killed in the Fulton State Game Area in southern Kalamazoo County.

The crime scene was near Jeff Titus' property.

Titus however was dropped as a suspect when detectives learned that he had been hunting miles away at the time the men were killed and his alibi checked out.

But a cold case team has picked the case back up a decade later, and in 2002, Titus was convicted and has been behind bars ever since.

"I just hope it doesn't take too long for this court to realize this miscarriage of justice," Titus said in August of 2002.

Exactly 12 years ago Tuesday, Titus was sentenced to life behind bars.

"The conviction is what spurred us to come forward," said retired Kalamazoo County Detective Roy Ballett, who worked on the case. "We didn't expect that the conviction would go through. Since that time, we have been concerned about it.

The detectives reached out to the Michigan Innocence Clinic, the group now fighting for Titus, who says the trial was botched. The group says Titus' attorney never spoke with the original detectives and police found evidence indicating that there were two shooters.

The original detectives tell us since Titus' conviction in 2002 this has been sitting with them.

"It's disconcerting. And we both retired during that period and it's something that's hard to live with if you know there's a wrong," said retired Kalamazoo County Detective Bruce Wiersema.

"To us this is a no brainer that when you learn that your client was cleared and now he's been charged 12 years later you should go talk to talk to the original officers who cleared your client in the first place. Had he done that, the alibi that Mr. Titus had would have been rock solid," said David Moran, Director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

David Moran says he hopes a judge will move this case forward and give the original detectives a chance to be heard for the first time, more than two decades after this crime took place.