Monday, September 25, 2023
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Cleveland Owes Exonerated Man $13 Million

(CN) - The 6th Circuit upheld a $13.2 million award for a Cleveland man who spent 12 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

David Ayers was a security guard for the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority when he was found guilty of killing Dorothy Brown in her CMHA apartment in Cleveland.

The 76-year-old woman was found bludgeoned to death, and naked from the waist down. Police immediately suspected Ayers because he was the last person to see her that night.

Although only circumstantial evidence tied Ayers to the crime, a jailhouse informant testified at trial that Ayers confessed to him and told him details of the crime.

Ayers spent 12 years in prison and consistently maintained he was innocent. The 6th Circuit reversed his conviction in 2011, finding that detectives Michael Cipo and Denise Kovach violated Ayers' civil rights by mishandling the jailhouse informant.

The appeals court found that the detectives "intentionally created a situation likely to induce Ayers to make incriminating statements without the assistance of counsel when it returned [informant Donald] Hutchinson to Ayers' jail pod and he thereafter deliberately elicited information from Ayers."

DNA testing also proved that a pubic hair found in Brown's mouth did not belong to Ayers, the Huffington Post reported.

A jury awarded Ayers $13.2 million last year for his pain and suffering, a judgment the 6th Circuit upheld Tuesday on procedural grounds.

"In appealing the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment, Cipo and Kovach argue that the court 'incorrectly denied ... their right to qualified immunity.' But their procedural failures prevent us from considering the qualified-immunity defense," Judge Ronald Lee Gilman said, writing for the three-judge panel.

The detectives failed to urge their qualified-immunity defense during and after trial, and therefore forfeited the argument on appeal, the 12-page judgment said.

For the same reason, the detectives also forfeited their right to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial, the panel ruled.

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