Wrongly Convicted Man Gets $18M After City Lost DNA Evidence

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New York City is cutting another massive check today: an ex-inmate who was wrongly imprisoned for 20 years and was finally cleared through DNA testing has won an $18 million judgment against the city after police misplaced the exonerating evidence for more than a decade.

Alan Newton, 49, was convicted of rape, robbery, and assault in 1985. He was released from prison four years ago, when an old rape kit from the case was found in an evidence warehouse -- almost 12 years after his lawyers requested a DNA test to prove his innocence.

Yesterday, a federal jury ruled in Newton's favor, deciding that the city had violated his civil rights and he'd suffered significant emotional distress after spending 11 years in prison after two NYPD officers failed to produce the rape kit his lawyers had requested in 1994. (No kidding.)

According to the New York Times, a city spokeswoman said the city was "disappointed" with the verdict, and that it planned to appeal the jury's decision.

Since his release, the Times says Newton enrolled full-time at Medgar Evers college in Brooklyn, currently works as a research associate at the Black Male Initiative of the City University of New York, and recently took the LSAT with plans to apply to law school.

Newton's suit -- backed by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to free wrongly imprisoned convicts through DNA evidence -- criticized the NYPD's "shoddy" system preserving and tracking post-conviction evidence. His lawyer, John Schutty, said the city was still tracking evidence by paper and pen, and that "only this year" is the Department rolling out a barcode system.

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]


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