BALTIMORE (CN) - Exonerated after 10 years in prison for murder, a man sued Baltimore and its Police Department for what he calls "one of the most shameful episodes of police misconduct" in city history.
Ezra N. Mable claims police pressured witnesses to lie and intentionally mishandled evidence, sending him to prison for 30 years, of which he served 10, before he was exonerated due to his own legal work.
Mable sued the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the Police Department, and 16 police officers, technicians, and detectives, in Federal Court.
Mable was convicted of murdering a drug dealer named Kevin Dukes in August 2000. But he claims Baltimore police had plenty of evidence to show that Dukes was killed by one of his associates, Edmond Eichelberger, whom the complaint refers to as "Eddie."
Mable claims the Baltimore police's "web of intentional bungling and concealment of exculpatory evidence throughout all phases of their investigation" led to his wrongful conviction and incarceration.
"[T]he defendants knew that the charges levied against him were completely baseless and unsupported by probable cause, as time and again they were contradicted by investigative examination, forensic evidence, documentary evidence, and common sense. In their haste to hold someone other than Eddie accountable for Mr. Dukes' murder, the defendants willfully ignored and were deliberately indifferent to the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Mable's actual innocence," the complaint states.
Dukes dealt drugs in the Cherry Hills area, Mable says in the complaint. Dukes supplied drugs to his street dealers, including Eddie, and "collected his cut of the week's prior sales" at weekly meetings, according to the complaint.
But Eddie started holding back some of the drugs Dukes gave him, sold them on the side and pocketed the money, the complaint states.
Mable claims Dukes knew that Eddie "planned to try to kill him for his supply of potent drugs," and told his friends that he needed to get a gun to protect himself from Eddie.
The complaint does not say how Mable learned this information.
"On the day of Mr. Dukes' cold-blooded murder, he met up with his drug dealers for their weekly meeting. Immediately thereafter, Eddie was seen getting into Mr. Dukes' motor vehicle where Mr. Dukes was found soon after, dead, shot multiple times at close range," the complaint states.
Mable claims the Baltimore police "received multiple tips and reports that Eddie was Mr. Dukes' shooter, and did not receive any tips naming anyone other than Eddie as the shooter."
But despite witness reports "and the complete lack of evidence that anyone else could be a suspect, the defendants willfully, intentionally, and for their own ulterior purposes refused to investigate Eddie," the complaint states.
Mable claims the police "hatched a plan" to frame someone else for the shooting by coercing two women into making false identifications in exchange for not being arrested on drug charges.
He claims the police planted drugs in the car of a woman whom an informant said might know something about the case. When she refused to cooperate, Mable says, police threatened to arrest her for narcotics possession and have her children taken away. She initially chose Mable's picture from the photo lineup, but changed her mind and insisted the shooter was Eddie, according to the complaint.
Mable claims the second woman did not even see the murder and had to be coached by police about their theory of the case. He claims she was a drug addict and was "either drunk or high" during the interview. When she picked Eddie's picture from the photo lineup, the detectives threatened to arrest her unless she said that "she had seen Mr. Mable with a gun exiting Mr. Dukes' motor vehicle," the complaint states.
Mable claims the police also mishandled physical evidence from the crime, including losing nine of the 13 bullets taken from Dukes' body and refusing to run DNA tests on blood recovered from beneath his fingernails.
Mable says he had nothing to do with the shooting. He says police "purposefully contorted" the women's statements and "reported that they both made positive identifications of Mr. Mable as the shooter" to frame him.
He claims the defendants suppressed evidence that exonerated him and implicated Eddie, failing to reveal it to the court, the state attorney's office, and Mable's attorney.
After almost 10 years in prison, Mable says, he submitted a "self-authored" petition for post-conviction relief to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.
"[T]he evidence of the defendants' misconduct is so overwhelming that even with a ninth-grade education and, at best, a cursory knowledge of criminal law, Mr. Mable's petition ... was granted, coincidentally on the tenth anniversary of the murder," his complaint states.
Mable seeks $35 million in compensatory damages, and punitive damages for civil rights violations, emotional distress, personal injuries, loss of wages, "permanent loss of natural psychological development; [and] restrictions of all forms of personal freedom."
He is represented by Charles H. Edwards IV with the Law Office of Barry R. Glazer.
Here are the defendants: Mayor and City Council; Baltimore City Police Department; Ed Norris, former police commissioner; Anthony Batts, current police commissioner; Detective William Ritz; Detective Homer Pennington; Detective Joseph Phelps; Detective Kirk Hastings; Kenneth Jones of the department's warrant task force; Officer Stanley Reaves; Officer William Pohler; Officer Michael Coleman; Officer D.T. Roney; police technician Shu Waltmeyer; police technician Carl Harris; Officer James Wagster; Officer Mark Takacs; and Officer Rosiland Bowman.
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