Incarcerated for a Decade: Judge to Decide if Detroit Man was Wrongfully Convicted

Tracy Stengel
4 min readOct 23, 2023
Howard McKnight. Photo used with permission from Steve Crane.

When a heinous crime is committed, the perpetrator deserves to be behind bars. But studies estimate that between 4 to 6% of incarcerated people are innocent.

Howard McKnight claims he is one of them. He’s been in prison for over a decade.

On Wednesday, October 25, 2023, Hon. Bridget M. Hathaway will respond to Howard’s Motion for Relief of Judgement in Wayne County Circuit Court. If she rules in Howard’s favor, he may be released or get a new trial.

In an affidavit signed September 8, 2022, Howard’s original lawyer, James C. Howarth said, “I have seldom, if ever, seen a case wherein so much reasonable doubt was put aside by the judge and jury in order to obtain a doubtful verdict.”

It began on New Year’s Eve with 2013 fast approaching. An elderly couple left a Detroit casino and realized their tire was flat. The husband pulled off Gratiot Avenue and onto a side street. He thought the truck would have to be pushed home. A man approached them on foot and offered to help. As the wife called her son for assistance, she offered the man her phone so he could give her son directions. He gave her the phone back and walked away.

This should have been a story about a kindhearted Good Samaritan. Instead, it’s quite the opposite.

Five or ten minutes later, the man returned and chatted outside the vehicle with the husband. Then, he pulled out a gun and demanded the wife’s rings. When she gave them to him, he threw them down because they weren’t valuable. Then, he ordered her to give him her gold chain with a diamond pendant. Next, he took the $280 she had in her purse.

Still unsatisfied, he wanted more — he wanted the wife.

When the husband realized the man’s intentions, he got on his knees and begged the man to reconsider.

The man forced the husband in the truck and ordered him to put his hands on the steering wheel.

The husband recently had a stroke. It was difficult to raise his arms.

The man threatened to shoot. Then, he ordered the wife to lay down. He asked if she had any protection.



Tracy Stengel

Writer and freelance fiction editor. Find me curled up w/ a blanket of metaphors or at You can buy me ☕️ at