(CN) – A Massachusetts state trooper must pay a man $400,000 for withholding evidence that would have exonerated him on murder charges, the 1st Circuit ruled.
Edmund Burke spent 42 days in jail, charged with the beating, stabbing and strangling death of 75-year-old Iris Kennedy. Investigators found bite marks on the victim’s breasts, and after DNA analysis, informed Trooper Steven McDonald that Burke did not commit the murder.
McDonald did not include this information among other evidence that seemed to point to Burke, and police arrested Burke and accused him of the murder. He was freed after a palm print on the victim also did not match his.
Burke won his civil rights case against McDonald in district court. He was awarded $118,882 in attorney fees; the court ruled that he had prevailed over “only one of 21 defendants on only one of 16 causes of action.”
On appeal, McDonald argued that the sum should be reduced to reflect the period of time between Burke’s arrest and arraignment, not the full 42 days of his confinement.
Judge Howard of the Boston-based federal appeals court disagreed.
“Trooper McDonald failed to disclose what he knew, and this failure prevented the magistrate and prosecutors from making informed, independence judgments,” Howard wrote.
Burke also appealed, arguing that he was entitled to a larger attorney fee. The judge denied his request.
“His argument that the district court failed to consider ‘the relief actually achieved’ and the ‘societal importance of the right which has been vindicated’ is based on an incorrect premise,” Howard ruled.