A Cleveland man who spent 11 years in prison was awarded $13.2 million in a civil suit after his murder conviction was reversed.
David Ayers was convicted of aggravated murder in the beating death of 76-year-old Dorothy Brown. Ayers and Brown lived in the same high-rise apartment complex at the time of the murder, and Ayers was employed as a security guard for the housing complex.
Ayers was originally arrested in March of 2000 and was convicted later in the year. The most damaging evidence against Ayers was testimony from his cellmate while he was awaiting his hearing. His cellmate claimed that Ayers confessed to the murder, but that testimony later dismissed after a jury ruled that detectives supplied the cellmate with information to aid in a conviction.
Ayers maintained his innocence while in prison, and later had his case taken up by the Ohio Innocence Project in 2008. Eventually, Ayers convinced a state appeals court to order the trial judge to allow DNA testing on a single pubic hair that was found on Brown’s body.
While the hair was being tested at a lab, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision against Ayers, saying his sixth amendment rights to legal counsel were violated because the State “ intentionally creat[ed] a situation likely to induce [Ayers] to make incriminating statements without the assistance of counsel.”
Despite the overturned ruling, the medical lab still tested the hair for DNA. The lab found that the hair did not belong to Ayers.
Ayers said he was pleased with his exoneration, and he hopes nobody else has to go through a similar ordeal.
“This should have been stopped a long time ago,” Ayers said after the jury’s verdict Friday. “My goal is that it never happens to anyone else ever again.”
In addition to ruling that the judge had improperly allowed testimony of a jailhouse informant, a federal jury ruled Friday that the two detectives who worked with the jailhouse informant fabricated or withheld evidence in order to secure a guilty verdict.
According to the Associated Press, detectives Denise Kovach and Michael Cipo conspired to fabricate a confession, convinced a friend of Ayers to lie by saying that Ayers had told him about the murder before Brown’s body was uncovered, and gave key information to the jailhouse informant to be used against Ayers during trial.
Ayers’ lawyers said they believe Kovach and Cipo attempted to frame Ayers because he was gay, even though investigators found that Brown had been the victim of sexual assault.
No criminal lawsuits have been filed against the officers at this time.
Related source: USA Today