Silent Cry, Inc. is a nonprofit human rights organization that takes a holistic approach to aftercare from mass incarceration, gun violence, and trauma. Founded by internationally-renowned advocate Shawanna E. Vaughn, Silent Cry works to support children and families impacted by poverty-related trauma. The team provides resources to those currently and formerly incarcerated, striving to help people heal through the process of self-development and overcoming grief.
Free Michigan Inmate Tamerra Washington From The Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility
Recently, the Silent Cry team reached out to Honeysuckle with a message for our readers: “We need your help!” The nonprofit is working to effect the release of Tamerra Washington, a wrongfully incarcerated inmate currently serving time at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, Michigan’s only women’s prison. Not only has Women’s Huron Valley been subject to numerous complaints about its abhorrent living conditions and staff abuses against inmates, leading to several deaths, but Washington’s own incarceration is, as she states below, “a miscarriage of justice.”
Washington has shared her story here to aid in the efforts to release her. This campaign is being supported by Silent Cry in partnership with organizations including American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Michael Thompson Clemency Project, and individuals such as Dion RiggenEl, co-founder of the Free People Campaign, justice advocate Larry Smith Jr., and numerous others.
*Editor's Note: The Michael Thompson Clemency Project is headed by Michael Thompson, formerly one of America's most notable cannabis prisoners who was released in January 2021. To learn more about his story, click here.
Who Is Michigan Inmate Tamerra Washington?
My name is Tamerra Washington, inmate number 486364, currently residing at the Women's Huron Valley Complex. I am wrongfully convicted, actually Innocent of the charges against me. Sentenced 32-50 years for Armed Robbery and 32-50 years for Assault with Intent to Rob While Armed, crimes I did not commit. A gross miscarriage of justice. I need community support.
Do the lives of Black women in Michigan hold any value? I'm guessing it didn't help me any in court that I was also openly lesbian. I checked all the boxes for the system to decide I was a prime candidate to be thrust within the systemic biases to secure a guilty verdict.
I never felt judgment for my life's choices; however, sketchy things did occur in the courtroom. The witness testified that she had family in law enforcement and "called them to set me up." The preliminary hearing judge said to me, “The burden of proof was not met, but I'm binding this over for the higher court to sort out. You think you’re some sort of gangster and do not fear the law... we will show you."
Now, no words had been spoken by me. Nothing was done to suggest that sentiment on my account. I was only a Black woman, visibly lesbian, sitting in the courtroom. My trial attorney confirmed my suspicions of biases by requesting that I wear a dress, outright confirming that I couldn’t come into the courtroom looking masculine and expect sympathy. Bottom line... Mom had fun going to buy me a dress.
Court Bias And Wrongful Conviction: The Trial Of Tamerra Washington
My experience in court was unlike anything I knew possible. The judge ordered the prosecutors and my defense attorney to obtain video surveillance from Greektown Casino in Detroit, where this tale is set. Neither ever did. My first attorney requested to get off my case. I was told the case would be dismissed at trial, which was the next court date and the attorney wanted the balance on the bill that day. I had given him $15,000 in one month. I needed to pay my bills maintaining my home, then give him the last five. He was not open for compromise; he wanted off my case. Maybe he already knew the deal was in place on my life and he didn't want that L. I agreed to let him off.
I went to trial with court appointed counsel. After the jury was picked, but before they could be sworn in, prosecutors dismissed the case. Only I was affected by that decision. I came to every court date early, never missing one. Because the prosecution's witness did not show up for trial, I had to turn myself back into jail and stay there a week while they falsified documents. I had to bond out again, and pay $5,000 for another attorney. Only I hurt from their gross misconduct. All of this only affects me.
During the second preliminary, my codefendant, the alleged gunman and robber, had his case dismissed. He was proven to be in jail on unrelated charges at the time of the alleged incident. With his case close, I was now bound over on the probability of gambling.
During the second trial, no one ever corrected the false witness testimony. No one ever said to the jury that the alleged gunman and robber's case had been dismissed. That he could not have done this. Instead I'm convicted on the prosecution's theory that I acted in collusion with the man proven to have been in jail on unrelated charges at the time of alleged offense. None of my witnesses were called on my behalf. None of the evidence given to support my innocence was ever explored by my trial counsel. I wanted to take the stand and was discouraged from doing so, assured that, yet again, the burden of proof was not met.
Now here I sit, sentenced 32-50 years on a subterfuge case. Due process violations to avoid the real. I was not arrested while out committing crimes. I was called by the alleged victim to pick up money owed and arrested following a 'Sting Operation' conducted by the Detroit Police Department’s 9th Precinct, for which no records were ever produced. Listen to the phone call that lured me to that dreadful moment. You'd know the truth. There was never any robbery or assault.
What Has Tamerra Washington Accomplished While Incarcerated?
Despite this wrongful conviction, I've invested this time in the evolution of my Being. I currently tutor my peers for their GED. I am a Hearing Impaired Assistant, a PPCA (Hospice Care aide) comforting my peers during their transition from life. I facilitate Narcotics Anonymous, encouraging sober living. I am Vice President of National Lifers of America Chapter 1014, and the Chair of the newly established Actually Innocent/Wrongfully Convicted Committee in NLA at Women's Huron Valley. I am the facilitator of the newly established Wrongfully Convicted Support Group.
I am the founder of MissCarrying Justice League on Facebook, amplifying the silence of other women incarcerated, an all-inclusive platform to humanize my community and spark dialogue from this experience. I also share my experiences through my own personal Facebook page. Last but not least, I created an internal registry for claims of innocence (MCJL-Registry.com), highlighting the women incarcerated seeking freedom, liberty, and justice.
I've completed all courses available to me with a long and indeterminate sentence: Chance For Life accountability and critical thinking class. CFL Substance Abuse classes twice. Phase 2 Substance Abuse. I've facilitated Narcotics Anonymous for five years minus the pandemic. Hosted a book club sponsored by AFSC. I've also completed Legal Writers training and Food Tech and Hospitality management. There is nothing more for me within this environment.
Call To Action: Help Release Tamerra Washington!
Please join in the effort to get Wayne County to produce my missing files. My case has been open with Wayne County’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) since July 2018. 37 men have been exonerated through this unity, but zero women. Address this gender disparity immediately. The women need relief too!
If you reach out to Wayne County personnel on my behalf, here is some information about my missing files:
Related Case#'s and MISSING FILES
The file that's available reads as if this case started 9/17/10, when in fact it began 5/19/10 (the date of the Preliminary Hearing).
I had the blessing of speaking to Kym Worthy, Wayne County Prosecutor, on August 24, 2021, after a Discovery hearing where prosecutors said there were no police, prosecution, nor FOIA documents for me anywhere. Ms. Worthy said it was unacceptable to not have the files from a 2011 conviction and that no files were destroyed on her watch.
To help Tamerra Washington, you can contact Kym Worthy and the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit.
Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, Conviction Integrity Unit
Frank Murphy Hall of Justice
1441 St Antoine
Detroit, MI 48226
To learn more about Tamerra Washington’s case and how you can support her release efforts, please visit silentcryinc.org and afsc.org. Reach out to Tamerra directly via Facebook by clicking here, and learn about the inmates supported by the MissCarrying Justice League here.
Find Out More On Social
Featured image: Tamerra Washington, courtesy of Silent Cry Inc.