Will Justice Win Out for Mother Wrongly Convicted of Molesting Her Adopted Son?
It’s another bit of momentum for the University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic with this week’s court order – the second in the case -- granting a Calhoun County woman a new trial.
Lorinda Swain, 51, was convicted a decade ago of molesting her adopted son, who testified at trial that the sexual abuse took place each morning as his brother waited at the end of the driveway for the bus.
Swain went to prison with a 25- to 50-year sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
But the son, Ronald, soon recanted, saying he made up the story.
For years, according to David Moran, the co-director of the Innocence Clinic at the Ann Arbor law school, Swain’s legal team has been trying to get the Calhoun County prosecutor to meet with Ronald Swain and hear from him why he lied at trial and why he’s urging the courts to do the right thing now.
“He’s passed polygraphs, gone to the police, gone to the press, gone to lawyers, gone to the public and said it just did not happen,” Moran says. “We want the prosecutor to just meet with him.”
But Calhoun County Prosecutor Susan Mladenoff, a Democrat up for re-election in November, hasn’t budged.
She first appealed the 2009 order granting Swain a new trial. In that decision, Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Conrad Sindt sided with Swain. The Michigan Court of Appeals vacated his order and the state Supreme Court refused to intervene.
Moran, his co-director Bridget Mary McCormack, now also a candidate for state Supreme Court justice, and the law students involved in the clinic, kept at it.
Over the last year, they secured the testimony of Dennis Book, Swain’s former boyfriend, who was in the home when the abuse would have taken place.
He swears it never happened and has said he would have turned her in himself if he had witnessed it.
It turns out Book talked with police during their investigation and challenged the allegations. That information was never shared with the defense, a violation of legal procedure.
Based on that, Calhoun Circuit Judge Sindt again ruled this week that a new trial should be granted.
There’s been no word from the prosecutor’s office if it will actually go ahead with trial. How could they? Without Ronald Swain’s testimony, there is no case.
“We’re hoping that the prosecution will see the light,” Moran says.
It would be nice if this would go away and Lorinda Swain could live without the tether she’s sported since her conditional release from prison a few years ago.
Besides, Moran, McCormack and their students have plenty of other cases to work on.