14 years ago Lorinda Swain went to prison, and she’s been there ever since. Just a few days ago, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that she was entitled to a new trial, but the prosecutor decided that they are not going to charge her a second time. Convicted over a decade ago for child abuse, for which she has consistently maintained her innocence, Swain is now free.
In August of 2002, Swain was convicted by jury of sexually abusing her adopted son, Ronald Swain. According to Ronald, his adoptive mother repeatedly performed oral sex on him. Consequently, Swain was charged and convicted on four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Ronald later recanted his testimony, saying that he had lied about his adoptive mother, and that she was innocent of wrongdoing. In addition, Swain’s attorneys presented the Michigan Court of Appeals with new witness testimony, which they claimed proved that the prosecution’s timeline of the abuse was not possible.
In addition, there was also the phone call between a now-deceased detective named Guy Picketts and Swain’s ex-boyfriend, Dennis Book. According to the defense, they chose not to call Book as a witness during the trial because Swain and he were estranged at the time, with a great deal of animosity between them. But Book had told the detective that he had never witnessed any kind of abuse, and his testimony may have made a great deal of difference to Swain’s case.
Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Conrad Sindt let Swain out on bail and determined on two separate occasions that she was entitled to a new trial. But both times he was overruled by the Court of Appeals. Finally the University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic stepped in to represent Swain, and her case made it all the way to Michigan’s Supreme Court.
She was even supported by a group of nine current and former prosecutors who filed a brief on her behalf. In it, they questioned the court, asking, “If it is not contrary to the law for an actually innocent person to be locked up for a crime she never committed, what value is the law?”
However, according to Attorney General Bill Schuette, Swain didn’t deserve a new trial on the grounds that her legal team had not met the heightened threshold now required for a new trial after a jury has found a defendant guilty of a crime. “To obtain relief based on an assertion of actual innocence, a convicted defendant must show that she is innocent, not just that reasonable doubt exists.”
Swain had been sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison, of which she served 7 years before finally being released. Finally free, and armed with the knowledge that the prosecution intends to drop all charges and walk away, Lorinda Swain is truly free. We hope that, with the support of her community and loved ones, she is able to pursue a positive and successful future in the wake of this tragedy. We wish her the very best for her new life.