Dramontae D. Hicks, 21, isn’t going to prison for the rest of his life, but he isn’t free either.

After a jury acquitted Hicks of murder in connection with the 2012 homicide of Brian Kelly, his attorney Edwin Johnson III had some advice, “I told him I expected him to leave here for a while, get his education, do good things, and then come back to Saginaw as an example…I told his family to get him out of here as soon as possible and keep him safe.”

The jury deliberated for 3 hours before returning with a not guilty verdict.  Prosecutors had charged Hicks with an open count of murder, which gave the jury the option of considering both first-degree and second-degree murder.

“They couldn’t place my client at the scene at the time of the murder,” Johnson said.

Kelly, 22, was shot in the back of the head on the second floor of his home. Prosecutor Richard King argued before the jury that Kelly was killed by someone he knew because he never let strangers into his home and was known to lock his doors.  King pointed to the testimony of a police informant, whose identity is a secret, who claimed that Hicks confessed he was hired to kill Kelly.

“I felt like they couldn’t place my client there, they could never put a gun in his hand, ever, ever, and it was supposed to be a murder for hire, for some big dollars – it didn’t come out at trial, but $10,000 was thrown around,” Johnson said, “… Where did the $10,000 go?

Johnson said he felt like he had a strong case going into trial and it “got better as the [trial] went on.”

“This young man didn’t deserve to die. Every victim’s family, when a suspect is identified, ultimately arrested, and goes to trial, they become vested in that. They believe that, because why else would the police arrest and take somebody to trial? So these folks are really hurting…they had the wrong guy, but I understand how the family feels. So I told [the Hicks’ family] to keep their distance, don’t press the issue…”

Prosecutors didn’t charge Hicks with the murder until over a year later because the witness who claimed Hicks confessed as well as another witness who claimed he saw Hicks leave Kelly’s house after a series of bangs, suddenly began cooperating with authorities.

John said the witnesses made Hicks the scapegoat, “He was an easy patsy because nobody in the neighborhood fears him. He’s not a person anybody is afraid of. I’m hoping that now he gets out of Saginaw. [It’s not running someone out of town]…I just think it’s the best thing for him.”

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