In his youth, Christmas held the best memories and was a short period of time when the abuse would temporarily stop, he would be surrounded by family and good food and beautiful decorations. Christmas was the one time of the year when Temujin felt safe and loved.
Although money was scarce, Temujin wanted dearly to start building more special memories during Christmastime, so he bought several inexpensive trinkets in preparation of the upcoming holidays in winter of 1986...
In December 1986, as a lost 23 year old young man, Temujin spent his first of the next 36 Christmases incarcerated and wrongfully convicted for the murder of a man he never met - Scott A. Macklem of Croswell, Michigan. One day Temujin may update this page and share his feelings regarding how it felt to spend his very first Christmas in St. Clair County Jail - prior to being sent to the state's most violent prison - Jackson.
Wrongful convictions are one of the worst hands you can be dealt in life. Prison is hell - and most of us are fortunate enough to have no idea of the gravity incarceration brings - wrongful or not. Few inmates are lucky enough to have a spouse on the outside fighting for them. Very few friendships survive the lenth of incarceration. Life goes on and society forgets those no longer present. Sadly, it's just how things are. The system is structured to prohibit communications and friendships, regardless of what the prison "mission statement" says. It's not about rehabilitation or reform or rebuilding lives. Incarceration is meant to throw away perceived "bad people."
Temujin was blessed to have such an amazing woman by his side for 22 years. A'miko Kensu spent her Christmases with Temujin in various prisons around the state as she fought for his freedom for each of those twenty-two years. Then, sadly and tragically, A'miko lost her battle to ovarian cancer in November 2012, shortly before Christmas. For the next seven Christmases, Temujin would spend Christmas alone behind bars without a loved one fighting for his freedom. This meant no "I love you" phone calls on Christmas Eve, and no Christmas Day visits.
On a snowy winter evening in November of 2019, Temujin was looking up at the beautiful white flakes as they fell down softly from the dark evening sky under the bright prison stadium yard lights in Macomb, Michigan. He had mourned his dear wife A'miko for just over 7 years and never felt more alone. In his heart, he really thought it would be impossible to find an amazing true love while still incarcerated but he also remembered the magic and miracles of Christmas he knew as a young child and it was in that moment he found peace. As the large flakes softly fell, he drew in a deep breath of cold air and prayed despite all odds to our Creator. "Lord please send me the perfect woman to love, honor, protect and cherish. Send me somebody who will fight fearlessly for my freedom and let me one day defend her and protect her as a free man, as her husband. Amen."
On Christmas Day, December of 2019, Temujin walked into the visiting room to meet with Nolan Finley, editor of the Detroit News. Nolan had interviewed Temujin in the past over the phone, and was shocked that he was still in prison, wrongfully convicted. This was the first time that Temujin had a visit on Christmas Day since his last visit with A'miko in December of 2011. Little did Temujin know, it was Nolan's Christmas article that would be published just a few days later, that would capture the attention of Paula Randolph, who soon reach out to check in on Temujin.
Just a few days after Nolan's Christmas article, Paula Randolph was retiring in bed with her pup Hunkey as she usually did with multiple books open to supplement her Bible study. She had been reading the Torah as part of a study group but took occasional breaks to glance at her phone. Paula clicked on the link and read Nolan's article that outlined the dozens of reasons why Temujin Kensu was wrongfully convicted. She was familiar with the Macklem murder - as she grew up in Lexington, Michigan and graduated from Croswell-Lexington High school, where Scott had also graduated eleven years prior to her. She also later taught college courses as an adjunct instructor at the college (SC4) in 2013. As you may recall, St. Clair County Community College, or SC4, was the college where Scott Macklem was murdered way back in 1986. Paula never knew somebody was convicted, much less, wrongfully convicted. Those things aren't usually publicized until decades after a conviction. And those things never happened in our small town - and in all the years Paula grew up there, she had never heard a word about it, until now.
Intrigued, Paula researched the case on Proving Innocence's website, and emailed the account. She was connected with David Sanders who was happy to call her to discuss the case. "He's absolutely innocent." Dave told her. "There is tremendous evidence of innocence and nothing indicating he is guilty." Paula pressed on, "How can that be? The jury found him guilty. How did that happen?" she wanted to know. "Evidence surely did not convict him. Misconduct and deception by the prosecutor and judge convicted him and it happens more than most people realize. His attorney was addicted to drugs and later disbarred from practicing law in Michigan. It goes on and on. This was Kensu's perfect storm."
She had heard enough. She decided to write to Temujin. She was aware of an app called JPay in which you can correspond with prisoners because she had an incarcerated family member, so Paula wondered if she could add Temujin as a contact as well. She looked up his inmate number in the OTIS system and sent her first message. She wanted to know if he had good people in his life and if it would help if she wrote a letter to the Governor. Perhaps she would update his Facebook page, which she noticed had a lot of random posts of bands but nothing much on his story and wrongful conviction case for quite some time. She knew from Finley's article that A'miko had passed away, and pondered what that must have meant to Temujin. Seven years without his wife by his side for Christmas.
The following Monday, Temujin wrote back and it was not long before they were writing daily and speaking on the phone. It was a powerful connection that blossomed into a beautiful friendship - all thanks to Nolan's Christmas story.
As it turned out, the prison where Temujin was held was directly off a highway that Paula commuted to and from work on a weekly basis. She thought of him as she passed by and wondered if she could visit him. She was able to visit him about six times before the prison was shut down for COVID-19 quarantines in April of 2020.
I cannot tell you what it is like to be wrongfully convicted and behind bars for a crime that I didn't commit. Nor can I express the deep depression that spending a holiday behind bars for a crime I didn't commit brings. Temujin might share that with us one day after his healing begins. But what I can share as one of the worst moments that I have experienced as the wife of a wrongfully convicted man was shortly AFTER Christmas in 2020. Although we weren't married then, the incident was one that will stick with me the rest of my life. Note by this time, we were in love and already talking about building a life together. We firmly believed that his exoneration was immanent .
Temujin's clemency application had been pending with Governor Whitmer for over a year. We had so many amazing supporters reach out to the Governor to ask her to grant clemency and correct this horrible nightmare, as much as something this bad could be corrected. In fact, a group of over 160 high school students from Clarkston, MI had recently sent Christmas cards and letters to Attorney General Dana Nessel and Governor Whitmer calling for his release. But in early January 2021, Temujin was called to the Warden's office to pick up "legal mail." This was unusual to pick it up from the Warden's office, so he had a sense of fleeting hope. Why was this different? Why wasn't he called to pick up his legal mail in the usual way? Why the warden's office? Was this the Christmas miracle we had all been praying for? Sadly, it was not. As he walked into the Warden's office, he was met with a grimacing warden telling him that he had news from the Governor's office. It was a letter formally responding to his request for clemency. But why was the warden expressing what appeared to be happiness? Plain and simple: evil. Contempt for a man who had sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) for civil rights violations including lack of medical care which he won . The warden laughed as he handed Temujin the letter that stated the Governor would not be granting clemency to Temujin. I don't know any further details - that is all that Temujin would share. I do know it is about a 5 minute walk back to his prison cell from the Warden's office. Five minutes to process what happened and to try to contain the emotions (despair, frustration, depression, anger, defeat, disgust) all while passing by officers of the state paid to imprison and suppress his freedom. What did he feel as he walked passed the American flag waving in the yard? Could he see past the razor wire gate into the field overlooking the prison and did he see any glimpse of hope for a life outside that fence? Not on that day. On that day, he didn't know how many more Christmases he would spend wrongfully incarcerated. That was a bad day.
It is December 4th, 2022 as Paula writes this update. Kensu is still not home and another Christmas is upon us. Several strands of lights need to now be replaced, as either the dogs have chewed them or they were just lemons to begin with. Either way, gifts have piled up for two years now as the past two years we were sure his release was immanent. We were married one month ago today, on November 4th. This will be our first Christmas as a married couple. Will it be our first together? We certainly hope so. But the clock runs quickly against us.
I'm trying to think of everything I can to bring my husband home. What "gimmick" or social media "trick" can I use to gain enough attention to bring Temujin home. I have thought a few:
I didn't intend for this post to be so long, but we need your help. Will you please go to www.Michigan.gov/whitmer and click on the "Contact the Governor" link. From there, you can enter your contact information and ask the Governor to free Kensu for Christmas. It would be crushing for Kensu to spend another Christmas behind bars for a crime the whole world knows that he did not commit. If you are on Twitter, you can also ask your friends and family to send a photo of your pet with a sign saying "Kittens for Kensu" or "Cats for Kensu," or "K-9s for Kensu," etc. and tag Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the post. We also use #MiWrongfulConviction in our social media posts to support his innocence.
Thank you for reading. We pray that you have an incredible Christmas surrounded by friends and family.
This YouTube Video features the voice of Temujin Kensu creatively changing the words to "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen" asking Governor Whitmer to Free the Innocent by Christmas.