Cops Off the Hook for Bogus Rape Conviction
ST. LOUIS (CN) - A man who spent 23 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a rape cannot sue police, the 8th Circuit ruled ruled.
Johnny Briscoe was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the 1982 rape of a woman at knifepoint.
In 2001, Briscoe took advantage of a new Missouri law to prove his innocence by testing old forensic evidence from the crime scene.
Though the rapist in 1982 had left three cigarette butts behind, St. Louis police could not find the evidence Briscoe requested until 2006. Once they were found, DNA on the cigarettes ultimately cleared Briscoe of the crime.
Briscoe sued St. Louis County and police officers Lane Hollandsworth, Stephen Deen and Jack Webb, claiming that they violated his constitutional rights by causing his wrongful conviction and by delaying his exoneration.
Briscoe claimed that police subjected him to unduly suggestive identification procedures, conducted a reckless investigation and withheld exculpatory evidence.
A federal judge granted the defendants summary judgment, however, and the federal appeals court affirmed Wednesday.
"Even assuming Hollandsworth caused some degree of suggestiveness in the photo lineup, it did not violate Briscoe's constitutional rights," Judge Duane Benton wrote for a three-member panel. "R.T.'s identification showed sufficient indicia of reliability to be admitted at trial without causing 'a violation of the core right - the right to a fair trial.' She had ample opportunity to view her attacker during the prolonged and well-lit encounter. She focused on his face in order to identify him later. Her pre-identification description of her attacker's face was fairly consistent with Briscoe's photo. R.T. expressed complete confidence in her identification, which she made immediately upon viewing Briscoe's photo. And, she made the identification within hours of the attack."
Briscoe says the actual rapist knocked on the victim's door at 2 in the morning, six weeks after the attack, while Briscoe was already under arrest for the crime.
Hollandsworth, who had been at the apartment because the victim was scared after receiving two anonymous phone calls, arrested the late-night visitor, but charges were never filed and the prosecutor's office was never informed of the incident.
Briscoe claims that Hollandsworth covered up this evidence, but the court did not agree.
"It is undisputed that at that time - six weeks after the attack - the rape investigation was considered complete, she had positively identified the same suspect in two lineups, and that suspect was in jail awaiting trial," Benton wrote. "The investigators were not seeking additional suspects."
Judges James Loken and Raymond Gruender concurred with the opinion.