Swain case before Court of Appeals


CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s a case that has been tangled in the courts for years.

Lorinda Swain may be out of prison, but she was back in court Wednesday.

In 2001, Swain was convicted of sexually abusing her son Ronnie, who later admitted nothing happened. She was sent to prison.

After the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic took Swain’s case, a Calhoun County judge ordered a retrial in 2012. The judge said evidence that could have affected the outcome of her verdict had been withheld.

The Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn that decision. The court heard arguments in that appeal Wednesday morning.

Swain spoke with 24 Hour News 8 on the phone before the hearing. The 53-year-old said she works as a waitress and wears an electronic monitoring device. She lives under multiple restrictions because of the initial conviction.

“If I have a neighbor with a kid, I can’t answer the door unless there’s 50 witnesses. If I go into a Walmart’s bathroom and there’s a child in there, I’ve got to run out,” she said.

She now lives with her parents.

“My parents have probably suffered maybe worse than me, if that’s possible. It’s had a profound health effect and financial effect on their lives, and they’re 75 and almost 80 years old and this has been going on for 15 years,” she said.

Swain has been out of prison for nearly five years. She said regardless of whether she gets another trial and “even if I’m totally exonerated, my life is changed.”

“I’ll never really receive justice, even if I don’t have to go back to prison and it’s over with, because my life’s forever changed and I’m forever changed,” she said. “I have a lot of hatred, a lot of bitterness, a lot of anger.”

There have been a lot of twists and turns in the case. A judge ordered the retrial when he ruled former Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office Det. Guy Picketts withheld evidence from the defense that would have likely changed the outcome of the first trial. That evidence was an interview with Swain’s ex-boyfriend in which he told the detective he was always at the home and the abuse never happened.

Picketts has since died.

24 Hour News 8 asked Swain if she wants to go back to trial to clear her name.

“I don’t care, I guess,” she said. “If I didn’t have to and it could be completely over sooner, I would hope for that. But I’m OK with going to trial, too. I’m pretty confident no jury in the world is going to find someone guilty of something the supposed victim says he made up.”

Wednesday, lawyers argued over whether the evidence is enough to justify a new trial or if the guilty verdict should stand. The Court of Appeals will decide whether to uphold the retrial order, but it could be weeks before a ruling is handed down.

“I don’t know how they’re going to rule and that worries me,” Swain told 24 Hour News 8 after the hearing. “I think that the law is on my side, and I really am innocent. And I think before the hearing, I was more encouraged that it was closer to being over. But I’m a little worried at this point that we’re a long ways away from being over.”

She said she will appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court if the Court of Appeals rules against her.

“I’ve done some wrong in my life, but I did not do this. No one should have to go through this. It’s just wrong,” Swain said.

The Calhoun County prosecutor said he will also appeal if the Court of Appeals sides with Swain.

That means the case could continue to drag on for months or even years.

Swain said she has forgiven her son Ronnie, but the two don’t have much of a relationship.

“I do love him,” she said. “I don’t wish bad to him. But I don’t see him. I don’t talk to him a lot.”

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