Prosecutor: Man who spent 17 years in prison for sexual assault was framed

Posted at 4:56 PM, Jun 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-10 23:14:25-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The Kent County Prosecutor is working to vacate the conviction of a man who has served nearly 17 years in prison for criminal sexual conduct because he was framed by a newly-convicted man.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth announced Wednesday that paperwork had been file to erase the conviction from Quentin Lavell Carter's record.

Carter was convicted just before his 17th birthday in 1992 for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl.  But it was during investigations into the recent cold case murder of Joel Battaglia from 1990, the prosecutor's office determined that Aurelias Marshall was responsible for the sexual assault crime and for framing Carter for it instead.

Aurelias Marshall

Aurelias Marshall

Marshall was convicted this week in Battaglia's murder.

Police believe Marshall forced the 10-year-old girl to lie about Carter's involvement by physically and psychologically abusing her. At the time, the girl was the daughter of Marshall's live-in girlfriend. It's believed Marshall targeted Carter because Carter owed him drug money, according to Forsyth.

"You wish something like this had never happened, but on your worst day you can't conceive of somebody doing something like that to a 10-year-old girl and getting her to say what she said," Forsyth told FOX 17.

Carter had failed a polygraph test given to him back in 1992 before the trial. There was no DNA evidence to connect Carter to the assault because the victim's mother took the victim to the hospital nearly 10 days after the alleged assault was said to have happened.

At the time, prosecutor's believed they had enough evidence to convict Carter.

Carter has maintained his innocence for 23 years.  While in prison, he was encouraged to admit guilt and participate in counseling programs, but he refused, maintaining his innocence.  He was up for parole after six years in prison, but was repeatedly denied release because he would not admit to the crime or express remorse.

Forsyth, who has been the Kent County Prosecutor for 29 years, has apologized to Carter and has filed a motion to vacate his conviction.

"I'm not going to hide behind the fact that ultimately it was this office that convicted him, and I would do anything to be able to change that, but I can't," he said.

"The ramifications for being wrong in this job are pretty dramatic. I mean, you're wrong and someone goes to prison for 17 years for something he didn't do, that's hard to live with."

Forsyth said he will not seek any further charges against Marshall, adding he didn't want to put the victim through another trial.

Carter, who has now been out of prison for several years, did not return FOX 17's request for comment Wednesday. It is unclear if Carter plans to file suit against the county for his apparent wrongful conviction.

Forsyth told FOX 17 the prosecutor's office waited until after the conviction of Marshall to file the paperwork to vacate Carter's conviction because they did not want to distract from the ongoing trial.