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Black man imprisoned for almost 40 years exonerated after witness admits to lying

Walter Forbes was convicted of arson back in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison.

Walter Forbes Detroit Free Press

A Black man who served almost 40 years in prison has been exonerated after a witness admitted to lying.

According to USA Today, on Nov. 20, 63-year-old Walter Forbes became a free man after the prosecutor’s star witness admitted to making up her story and other evidence turned out to be fabricated. Back in 1982, Forbes, who was a full-time student at Michigan’s Jackson Community College, broke up a bar fight. The next day, Dennis Hall, one of the men who was involved in the fight, came for revenge and shot Forbes. Luckily, he survived the shooting.

Hall later died in a fire that appeared to be deliberately set on July 12, 1982. Because of his recent altercation with Forbes, authorities assumed he was a suspect in the arson and arrested him at his home. In 1983, he was convicted of arson and sentenced to life in prison.

In addition to witness Annice Kennebrew lying, authorities uncovered that the fire may have been part of an insurance fraud scheme that was orchestrated by the owner of the apartment building. “It felt like all the possibilities that I was working on all those years were coming to fruition,” Forbes said. “I didn’t think it would take that long, but patience paid off.”

Kennebrew originally said she saw three men, including Forbes, burn down Hall’s apartment. One of the three men she accused passed a polygraph test and the charges against him were dropped. The other man was acquitted. Forbes was the only one who was convicted for the fire, due to his past history with Hall. In 2017, Kennebrew finally admitted that she lied.

Although it took more than three decades, Forbes is thankful that she finally told the truth. “Even though it took forever, I’m still grateful she did the right thing, that she did finally tell the truth,” he said. A GoFundMe account has been created to help Forbes get back on his feet. They have set a goal of $10,000 and have raised $9,000 so far. If you would like to donate to his GoFundMe, click here.

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