Oakland County Prosecutor wants murder conviction tossed; motives questioned

The Oakland County Prosecutor is asking a judge to throw out a first-degree murder conviction but the timing may seem a bit odd as the man who admitted to killing his nephew 13 years ago has been tied to campaign contributions to the Oakland County Prosecutor.

Hayes Bacall, 63, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2010 murder of his nephew, Jameel, at a BP Gas Station in Troy. At the time, investigators said Bacall admitted to killing his nephew because "he owes me $400,000." Today, the prosecutor's office is asking for Bacall's conviction to be thrown out in exchange for conviction on a lesser charge.

But the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office says there's more to the case.

"What we're asking the judge to do - along with the defense - is set aside the conviction for first-degree murder and re-sentence Mr. Bacall to second-degree murder," Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams said.

Bacall's defense team argues that he deserves a new trial, partially because there have been multiple findings of prosecutorial misconduct in that trial more than a decade ago under the former prosecutor. But now, two witnesses who testified at Bacall's trial have changed their story. That prompted the Oakland County Conviction Integrity Unit to investigate.

"Whenever we have somebody who changes what they said when they were under oath - we take that very, very seriously," said Beth Greenberg Morrow from the unit.

The witnesses have signed affidavits recanting their stories, with one now saying Bacall and Jameel were arguing and that Jameel said something about a gun and lunged at Bacall, who then fired his own gun. 

"He's matured, he's realized that he was out for revenge when he initially testified," Williams said. "He stated in the interview when we talked to him he can't live with himself knowing that what he testified to at trial was not the truth."

Attorneys with the Conviction Integrity Unit say the other witness wants to set the record straight as well.

"Nobody wants a wrongful conviction on either side," Greenberg Morrow said.

But some are questioning the timing after revelations from the Detroit News that Bacall's family and business community donated to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald's campaign.

"Politics will never play any role in the decision-making in our office - it had nothing to do with the independent conviction integrity unit investigation here," Williams said.

The judge said she plans to watch the earlier trial as well as the surveillance video from the gas station. She did not offer a timeline for when she would have a decision.