ST. LOUIS (CN) – A man who spent 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit has sued St. Louis and its Police Department for their shoddy work in investigating his case. Darryl Burton was convicted of shooting Donald Ball to death on June 4, 1984, based on the evidence presented by St. Louis police officers. He was cleared and released in 2008.
“On or about June 4, 1984, SLPD officers received information that plaintiff Burton was in a feud with Ball over a woman that Ball had been dating,” Burton’s federal complaint states. “While this information was incorrect, it nevertheless caused the officers to settle on plaintiff as their suspect. Thereafter, the individual defendants began improperly shaping the investigation to fit plaintiff, rather than conducting a true investigation to solve the crime.”
Burton claims the defendants suppressed eyewitness descriptions of the shooter, which did not match him; prepared false police reports that misstated the witnesses’ accounts; covered up the report of an eyewitness who said he knew the shooter wasn’t Burton; never procured any physical evidence against Burton; and fabricated false witnesses who were not present at the shooting.
Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan overturned the conviction on Aug. 18, 2008, “on the basis that he was innocent.” Prosecutors then had 15 days to consider retrying the case, but on Aug. 29 they made it clear that they would not.
The killer was a man named Jesse Watson, who had been in a feud with Ball, the complaint states.
Burton, now 48, seeks punitive damages for suppression of exculpatory material, suggestive indemnifications, fabricated evidence, malicious prosecution and of emotional distress. He is represented by Samuel Wendt with Wendt Goss in Kansas City, Mo.
The City of St. Louis, the City of St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners and seven individual police officers are named as defendants.