DETROIT, July 26 (UPI) -- A Detroit judge Thursday threw out murder convictions against two brothers who have spent more than a quarter-century in prison.
Wayne Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon said new witnesses who never talked to police immediately after the killing now have offered enough evidence in his court to call into question the 1988 decision by then-Judge Terrance Boyle to convict the brothers and sentence them to life after a bench trial, The Detroit Free Press reported.
"The court finds the newly discovered evidence to be credible and reliable," Talon said.
The newspaper said cheers erupted in the courtroom from supporters of Thomas Highers, now 46, and Raymond Highers, 45, as the brothers hugged and shook hands.
The brothers had said all along they did not fatally shoot Robert Karey, 65, at his home on Detroit's east side in June 1987.
Because prosecutors are expected to appeal, the brothers were not immediately released following the ruling, the Free Press said. The judge called a recess and said bond arguments will be heard shortly.
The prosecutors could seek a new trial for the brothers, the newspaper said.
The hearings driven by new witnesses began in March.
Karey was fatally shot and killed near his back door where he typically dealt marijuana to young suburban customers. Judge Boyle died in 2008.
But in 2009, a chance encounter on Facebook revealed information about a carload of 1987 Grosse Pointe North High School graduates who said they were at Karey's house the night he was shot, the newspaper said.
Two of them told Talon under oath what they remembered. They testified they went to Karey's back door to buy marijuana, but were interrupted by several armed black men who ordered them to leave, the newspaper said. One of the witnesses testified he heard a gunshot as they fled back to the car.
The race of the assailants was important because the Highers brothers are white.