GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who spent 21 years in prison for two murders before a judge ruled he was wrongfully convicted has filed to receive more than $1 million from the state.
Documents filed with the Michigan Court of Claims Friday by Jeff Titus’ attorneys seek $1,026,740.05 in compensation, plus interest, costs and attorney fees.
Titus was convicted in 2002 of the November 1990 murders of Jim Bennett and Doug Estes in the Fulton State Game Area. He has always said he is innocent and alibi witnesses put him about 25 miles away at the time of the murders. That alibi led the original detectives to clear him, but cold case detectives said he could have done it and pursued him as their suspect.
In February, a federal judge vacated Titus’ convictions and ordered his immediate release after finding that evidence uncovered decades ago but never presented to the jury pointed to an alternate suspect — a serial killer named Thomas Dillon. Titus, 71, walked out of prison Feb. 24.
On Thursday, the Kalamazoo County prosecutor announced he would not try Titus again for the killings, saying he simply that too much time has passed and many of the witnesses are dead.
“You have to ask yourself, what would a trial look like today if we proceeded to trial?” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at a news conference. “We’re talking about an incident that happened three-plus decades ago. … We’re talking about an investigation into another suspect, Thomas Dillon, that took place three decades ago. We’re talking about a cold case investigation that took place over two decades ago and a trial that took place over two decades ago. And trying to move forward with a case like that today is impossible. It would not lead to a conclusion, whether it was guilty or not guilty, that anyone would have any confidence in the outcome, would have any reasonable belief that the outcome was correct because the process itself would be full of compromise.”
The murder and weapons charges against Titus were dismissed.
“All I can say is, I’m an innocent man. I am glad to have this off of my head and that I can get on with my life,” Titus said Thursday.
He could be entitled to $50,000 for each year he was in prison if a court determines he meets the requirements laid out in Michigan’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.