Man Framed for Murder Wins $13.2M Verdict Against Detectives

Posted March 18, 2013 in Criminal Law Jury Awards by

A prisoner sitting on a bunk with his head in his hands

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An innocent man who served 11 years in prison for a murder conviction based on fabricated evidence won a civil jury award of $13.2 million against two detectives.

David Ayers was a security officer at a housing unit in Cleveland when he was arrested for the beating death of a 76-year-old woman who lived in the building. He was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison based on the word of a jailhouse snitch. Ayers maintained his innocence and filed appeals for 11 years.

DNA tests in 2011 proved that a single pubic hair found in the mouth of the victim did not belong to Ayers. A federal appeals court also reversed the murder conviction, finding that the judge should not have allowed testimony by the jailhouse informant. Ayers denied ever confessing to the murder to the informant.

After he was set free in 2011, Ayers sued the two detectives in the criminal investigation, Denise Kovach and Michael Cipo, for violating his civil rights by fabricating and withholding evidence.

His lawsuit alleged that the detectives framed him because he is gay.

The two detectives blamed the pubic hair on the victim’s messy apartment even though her body had been found naked from the waist down and her top pulled up, exposing her chest.

Attorney Russell Ainsworth headshot

Attorney Russell Ainsworth

But Ayers’ attorneys said “Mr. Ayers was innocent and had nothing to do with the crime. Moreover, as a gay man, Mr. Ayers did not fit the profile of the killer in the case, given the obvious nature in which the victim had been attacked.”

“Hopefully, this verdict will convince the prosecutors to run a DNA search to find the real killer who is still on the loose,” said Russell Ainsworth, one of Ayers’s lawyers.

One of the jurors said after the verdict that the jury thought the detectives “railroaded” Ayers. “These detectives didn’t do their job at all. They manipulated the evidence, and didn’t look at anyone else expect the most convenient suspect to convict,” Stephanie Kocian said.

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