Exonerated After 22 Years in Prison

NORFOLK, Va. (CN) - A man imprisoned for 22 years for the murder of a friend claims in court that Newport News police withheld evidence that would have cleared him and scared up a "jail house snitch" to falsely testify that he had confessed to the crime.
     David Boyce, who was exonerated by DNA evidence 22 years after his conviction, sued Newport News and "various former and/or current Newport News Police Department officers" in Federal Court.
     According to the 69-page complaint, Boyce's friend Timothy Askew was robbed and stabbed to death in a Newport News motel in 1991. The two men lived together in one of the motel rooms, though Askew was murdered in another room, where he partied and had sex with an unknown man.
     Askew was found the next morning by a maid, and Boyce says he was arrested, wrongfully convicted and sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment for robbery and murder.
     "Boyce proceeded to spend the next twenty-two years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit," he says in the complaint.
     He adds: "Even more tragically, Boyce's wrongful conviction and continuing incarceration were no inadvertent mistake. They were caused by the intentional, bad faith, or alternatively, reckless acts of defendant officers Thomas E. Bennett, the lead detective on the case, Patricia L. Montgomery, the evidence technician assigned to the case, as well as the intentional, bad faith, or alternatively, reckless acts of various former and/or current Newport News Police Department officer John Does 1-4, who, in the years following Boyce's conviction, were responsible for collecting, organizing, storing, retrieving and otherwise maintaining investigative materials and other police information, including that related to the Askew murder investigation."
     Boyce claims Bennett and Montgomery concealed exculpatory and impeachment evidence from the Commonwealth's Attorney to deprive Boyce's defense from using the evidence at trial.
     The evidence - including semen, blood, hair, fingerprints and saliva residue taken from a cigarette butt- indicated that Askew was murdered by someone other than Boyce, Boyce says.
     "Faced with a likely dismissal of the case at the preliminary hearing stage, at the last minute the Newport News police managed to scrounge up a jail house snitch, who conveniently came forward only days before the preliminary hearing, to shore up the Commonwealth's case," the complaint states. "According to the informant, Boyce supposedly confessed to him months earlier while in jail awaiting trial. The snitch provided similar testimony at Boyce's trial."
     The complaint adds: "There were numerous reasons to doubt the credibility of the informant, including his multiple felony convictions, and the fact that his account was inconsistent in several material ways with the known facts of the crime. Years later, the informant came forward and claimed that his testimony at Boyce's trial was false and that he had been coerced and coached by the Newport News police into providing it."
     Boyce claims that police also withheld a picture of him that showed him with short hair on the day of the murder, negating a hotel clerk's testimony that a man who looked like Boyce but with long hair ran from scene.
     "Years later, in 2004, previously unavailable DNA testing obtained by Boyce over the Commonwealth's vigorous objection confirmed what more simple blood and secretion testing had demonstrated at trial - that someone other than Boyce murdered Askew," the complaint states. "Not only was no DNA from Boyce found, the presence of DNA from the person who must have murdered Askew was identified."
     Boyce says his conviction was vacated in 2013, and his criminal record expunged.
     Boyce, who was 20 years old when he was convicted, claims the Newport News Police Department conspired to violate his right to due process and caused him emotional distress.
     He seeks $25 million in damages for constitutional violations, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     He is represented by Lawrence Woodward Jr., with Shuttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock of Virginia Beach, and David Koropp with Winston & Strawn of Chicago.