Protecting the Innocent -- Eddie Joe Lloyd

In 1985, Eddie Joe Lloyd was convicted in Detroit of the rape and murder of a teen-age girl. The evidence of his guilt was overwhelming.  Eddie Joe Lloyd’s written confession gave specific information about the crime scene that only the perpetrator could have known.  Police had him on tape admitting to the brutal acts.  It was a slam dunk case.  The jury took less than an hour to convict him of 1st degree felony murder.  Lamenting the lack of the death penalty in Michigan, the judge sent Eddie Joe to a maximum security prison for the remainder of his life without the possibility of parole.  Justice was served… except for one small problem – Eddie Joe Lloyd was innocent.

The road to Mr. Lloyd’s wrongful conviction began with a letter he wrote to the police suggesting that he had pertinent information about the case. Eddie Joe was convinced that he had the supernatural ability to solve crimes, and he wrote to the police frequently offering his services to help them solve notorious crimes.  This particular letter was written from his bed at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute where he was involuntarily committed.  The police interrogated Eddie Joe at the mental health facility on at least three separate occasions.  He was never offered a lawyer during these interviews. As it was later learned, the police officers allowed Lloyd to believe that, by confessing and getting arrested, he would help them smoke out the real perpetrator.   They fed him salient information about the crime scene to make his confession more believable.

Wayne County paid the lawyer appointed to represent Eddie Joe only a single flat fee of $150 for representing him from appointment until trial began.   His attorney gave $50 to an  investigator and pocketed the other $100.  Not surprisingly, the investigator did not make any independent inquiry into Mr. Lloyd’s confession or his mental state, and the lawyer didn’t either.  Nobody interviewed Mr. Lloyd’s doctors or his family members about Eddie Joe’s history of delusions of grandeur.  No one conducted any independent investigation of the crime scene.   No expert was retained to explain Mr. Lloyd’s mental history to the jury or to challenge the state’s expert testimony that Eddie Joe was competent despite his involuntary mental health commitment status at the state facility. In 1985 Detroit, courts rarely granted defense requests for expert witnesses, and, if they did, the amount of money provided was so meager that the expert would in essence be donating his time.  Whether or not Eddie Joe’s attorney knew this to be the case from past experience, he never bothered to ask the court for an expert. 

Then, Eddie Joe Lloyd’s attorney fell ill on the day his trial was to begin.  Eight days later, Eddie Joe stood trial for his life with a new appointed lawyer. This second attorney never met with Mr. Lloyd’s original court-appointed attorney.  During the trial, he did not cross-examine the police officer who was most directly involved in obtaining Eddie Joe’s coerced confession.   He did not call a single defense witness to testify.  His closing argument clocked in at less than five minutes.

Mr. Lloyd received another court-appointed lawyer to conduct his direct appeal.  This one never visited Eddie Joe in prison even a single time and did not raise ineffective assistance of counsel claims against the two trial attorneys.  When Eddie Joe wrote a letter to the court to suggest that he was not receiving adequate representation on appeal, the appellate attorney responded to the judge saying that Eddie Joe’s claims should not be taken seriously because he was “guilty and should die.”

Eddie Joe Lloyd was determined to be innocent and was released from prison on August 26, 2002, after serving 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Items from the crime scene and the body of the young girl herself contained sperm from the person who raped and murdered her.  DNA tests showed Eddie Joe Lloyd was not that person.  Eddie Joe’s freedom was secured thanks to the efforts of local Michigan attorney Saul Green  and The Innocence Project -- a non-profit legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law that handles post-conviction cases where DNA evidence still exists in cases tried before the advent of DNA sciences.  For failing to provide an adequate defense up front, Wayne County cost its taxpayers over $4 million in a settlement agreement with Mr. Lloyd’s estate.  Sadly, the DNA evidence that completely exonerated Eddie Joe Lloyd has not led to a match on any law enforcement database.  More than twenty-six years after the crime, the identity and whereabouts of the real perpetrator remain unknown.  Eddie Joe Lloyd enjoyed only two years of freedom outside of prison before passing away from medical complications at the age of 54.

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Publication Date: 2010