Dateline   |  April 04, 2014

Graduation Night, part 6

The Highers brothers face a new trial and possible return to prison for the 1987 murder of Robert Karey.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the hall of justice was waiting again for tommy and ray highers. the very place they were sent away in the first place.

>> i hate going into the courtroom, i hate going to the courthouse, i hate parking in the parking lot to get to the courthouse. you know what i mean ? it's like i just -- but it's something that we got to deal with. it's going to be head-on.

>> as we talked, two weeks before the scheduled start of their trial, the wayne county prosecutor's office was forging ahead, once again charging the brothers with the murder of robert karey, old man bob.

>> how nervous are you about this?

>> of course, you're going to be nervous. your lives are in other people's hands still.

>> for the past several months, tommy and ray's defense attorneys had been attending pretrial hearings, sending motions back and forth as lawyers do, all the while hoping the d.a. would come to see it their way and simply drop the charges.

>> i was confident it was a game of chicken.

>> with each legal step in the march towards trial, they were disappointed. the d.a. had seemed perfectly clear was very serious.

>> all rise.

>> then just a few days after our interview with the brothers, september 2013 , everyone assembled in the courtroom. assistant d.a. reynolds had something to say.

>> your honor, at this time based on consultation with prosecutor worthy, based on communications with the decedent's family and a recognition of what 26 years can do to the triability of the case, we would move to dismiss the case against the defendants at this point in time.

>> and that was it.

>> case dismissed. no new trial.

>> it's not often that you get to give somebody their life back. that's what we did, we gave them their lives back. it was incredible. it was incredible.

>> but before they all left the courtroom, the prosecutor pointedly reserved the right to refile murder charges if new evidence ever surfaces.

>> are you going to allow this to hang over your head for the rest of their lives?

>> absolutely not. we haven't done that in the last year. we moved on. we've moved on in life. we're going to continue to do that.

>> the wayne county prosecutor, kym worthy who declined a request for an interview, took a parting shot at the brothers. issued a statement saying, "just as we did 26 years ago, we firmly believe in the evidence in this case. we have worked diligently to bring this case to trial. with the passage of time, it is aun unfortunate reality that this case cannot be put back together and we must dismiss it. sadly, in this case justice was not done." really? said the people who freed tommy and ray.

>> it was really disingenuous. it was not right.

>> disingenuous is such a polite word. what does it really mean?

>> it means they were saving face .

>> it puts a stain on them that they don't deserve. they have the stain of 25 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. then you have the prosecutor's office saying yeah, right. kind of like we still think they're guilty.

>> what did tommy and ray highers get for their 25 years in prison? for all the agony they had been through, damage to their reputations, the loss of a chance to have a normal life for all those years, what do they get in return?

>> they get nothing. michigan doesn't have a wrongful conviction compensation statute. they walk out of prison with absolutely nothing.

>> nothing except, of course, everything. including the chance to celebrate with the people who helped free them. mary whose facebook post started it all.

>> could you ever imagine you would actually cause such a thing?

>> no. no, not in a million years. it's hard to get my head around it. it's just awesome feeling.

>> sure.

>> kevin, who still shies away from taking credit.

>> i happen to be a lawyer. it doesn't seem that extraordinary to me.

>> and john held shire who can finally put the past where it belongs, behind him.

>> like i told them, i wish i could have done something earlier, you wouldn't have had to sit there so many years. tommy looked at me, gave a me hug and he said, it's the way it was supposed to happen. it had to happen like this.

>> yeah. they don't seem bitter at all.

>> not when i met them. just glad they're home and they're out and they're free. [ applause ]

>> free men who know none of it would have happened without family, friends, that dream team of lawyers and an investigator and, of course, facebook.

>> what would you like to say to those people who helped you along the way?

>> thank you you from the bottom of our hearts for believing, understanding and taking the time that most people don't do. it's like a dream come true for us because it's what we've always been hoping for.

>> somebody to help us.

>> that's why we want to live and move forward. it's gone, it's the past. move on to better days .